At least 17 people have died and three more have been hospitalized after a suspected Haitian migrant ship capsized off the coast of the Bahamas, Bahamian officials said at a news conference on Sunday.
According to Philip Davis, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, the ship capsized about seven miles off the coast of New Providence, Bahamas, at about 1 am.
Officials believe the ship, a speedboat, was en route to Miami, Florida, and that two Bahamians helped smuggle the Haitians into the United States. The speedboat is believed to have entered rough water, causing the ship to capsize.
Of the 17 bodies recovered from the water, 15 were men, a woman and a baby.
“We mourn the loss of those seeking a better way of life,” said Bahamian Minister of Labor and Immigration Keith Bell, “Those here with family and friends in Haiti, please encourage your loved ones not to to put the game.”
Twenty-five people were rescued from the water and are being watched by health officials, said Royal Bahamas Police Force Commissioner Clayton Fernander.
Twenty of the people who were rescued have since been taken into custody by Bahamian immigration and are being held in a detention center, officials said. Some of the inmates said they paid between $3,000 and $8,000 for the trip.
Fernander said the two Bahamians who allegedly smuggled the migrants are in custody. They are suspected of carrying out a people smuggling operation.
Officials said they believe there were 50 to 60 people on board the ship and 42 have been counted so far. They added that rescue efforts are underway.
Davis also confirmed that the migrants had already landed in the Bahamas and were leaving the country when the ship capsized.
Similar trips have, of course, also ended or ended in tragedy this year. In May, a ship carrying more than 800 Haitian migrants bound for the United States went off course and washed ashore in Cuba, leaving the country to seek humanitarian aid. Reuters reported.
Just days before that incident, 11 Haitian migrants died when their ship capsized off the coast of Puerto Rico.