MIAMI (AP/WSVN) — A dangerous journey took a deadly turn for dozens of Haitian migrants after their boat sank off the coast of the Bahamas.
Sunday evening, a South Florida community came together to remember the lives lost after, Bahamian officials said, a vessel smuggling Haitian migrants capsized, leaving 28 people dead and 17 others in police custody.
7News cameras captured the congregation at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in Little Haiti as a prayer service was held, Sunday evening.
“To know how precious life is, and to see that 28 lives so far have been lost in such humiliating conditions, it is heartbreaking for all of us in the Haitian community,” said Father Reginald Jean-Mary from Notre Dame d’Haiti just before the service began.
Officials said the migrants left Haiti on Saturday were heading toward the Bahamas and possibly South Florida when something went wrong in coastal waters at least six miles off the Bahamas, near the entrance of Marsh Harbour.
Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rolle of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force said residents of the island of Abaco found four bodies and at least 15 people.
Bahamian forces and the U.S. Coast Guard then launched a search operation that by Sunday afternoon had found at least 28 bodies in and around a ship sunk off the Bahamas near Fowl Cay. The total rescued also rose to 17.
“To see 28 lives — your brothers, your sisters — die, it is not pleasant,” said Jean-Mary.
Rolle said the ship appeared to be an American vessel engaged in people-smuggling, but no further information was immediately available.
Jean-Mary said he believes the victims were escaping a country that is now unlivable.
“Haitians would never leave their homes if they were not in search of something that is better for themselves,” he said.
The survivors were taken to dry land for treatment before being sent back to Haiti.
The Royal Bahamas Defense Force says it has apprehended at least 300 Haitians in four smuggling incidents so far this year.
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