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1 dead, at least 38 missing after boat suspected in human smuggling capsizes off Florida coast

NBC News logo NBC News 1/28/2022 Phil Helsel and Chantal Da Silva
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The Coast Guard continued searching the waters off Florida Wednesday for at least 38 people missing after a boat capsized during a journey from the Bahamas in a suspected human smuggling incident.

Rescue crews located the body of one person in the search for 39 people missing after the incident, which unfolded about 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, Captain Jo-Ann Burdian, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami, told reporters Wednesday morning.

The sole known survivor was rescued by a commercial mariner who spotted them clinging to the overturned vessel, Burdian said.

The survivor told the Coast Guard he and 39 others had left Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night, but the craft experienced severe weather and capsized.

He was taken to a hospital for symptoms of dehydration and sun exposure. Burdian said he was in stable condition as of Monday morning and was being interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security. The identities of both the survivor and the good Samaritan who saved him have yet to be released.

The survivor told the Coast Guard no one on board the 25-foot vessel had been wearing life jackets.


Video: 39 people missing after boat capsizes off Florida coast (TODAY)

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Conditions at the time included 7- to 9-foot seas.

Bimini is an island on the western part of the Bahamas around 50 miles from Miami.

Burdian said the boat had been making its way along a known route.

The Coast Guard began its search for survivors after being alerted to the incident at around 8 a.m. Tuesday and has been searching from Fort Pierce Inlet to Bimini with ships and aircraft. They are about 140 miles apart.

The Coast Guard and other officials have warned migrants not to risk the dangerous trip by sea.

On Friday, the Coast Guard and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force intercepted 88 Haitians in an overloaded freighter near Great Inagua in the Bahamas, which is north of Haiti, the Coast Guard said.

Also Friday, 32 people were rescued from a capsized boat around 5 miles west of Bimini, the Coast Guard said.

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