‘Dire’ search continues for 38 people off capsized Florida ship after survivor found clinging to boat

The search continues Wednesday for 38 passengers believed to have been aboard a boat that capsized off the coast of Florida
The search continues Wednesday for 38 passengers believed to have been aboard a boat that capsized off the coast of Florida (EPA/Reuters)

One body has been recovered as the search continues Wednesday morning for the 38 other passengers believed to have been aboard a human-smuggling boat that capsized off the coast of Florida.

The 25-foot capsized boat was found early Tuesday morning with the only known survivor clinging to the hull of the overturned ship.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, US Coast Guard officials described the rescue mission as a race against time.

‘It is dire. The longer they remain int he water without food, without water, exposed to the marine environment, the sun, the sea conditions, every moment that passes it becomes much more dire and unlikely that anyone could survivor in those conditions,’ said Captain Jo-Ann Burdian, commander of the Sector Miami Coast Guard.

The survivor had told rescuers that the boat capsized Saturday evening after sailing from the Bahamas into a storm. Only on Tuesday was the Coast Guard alerted to the accident after the crew of a merchant ship spotted the survivor sitting alone on the overturned hull of the boat.

‘We often rely on sometimes heroic acts of good Samaritans operating in the marine environment and this case is no exception,’ Burdian said. ‘We’re deeply grateful that the mariner located the survivor in this case and saved his life and called us so that we could continue to search for survivors.’

The survivor, a man, was taken to a hospital with symptoms of dehydration and sun exposure, and according to Homeland Security officials he is ‘conscious and lucid.’ He also was not wearing a life jacket, and reported that no one else on board was either.

While officials would not comment on the origins or nationalities of the passengers aboard the ship, they said they do believe it was a case of human smuggling.

‘We do suspect that this is a case of human smuggling,’ Burdian said. ‘This event occurred in a normal route for human smuggling from the Bahamas into the southeast US.’

The search will continue throughout Wednesday, and will be re-evaluated on a daily basis.

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