(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — U.S. Coast Guard air and surface units combined efforts with local park rangers and the crew of the ferry Kydon to rescue six migrants following a vessel capsizing Monday off Sardinera Beach on Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
Four men and two women – two Dominican Republic and four Cuban nationals – were rescued. They reportedly were on a migrant voyage when their vessel capsized near Mona Island’s reef line late Sunday night.
“These six people are very fortunate to be alive,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Gerard Wenk. “We cannot stress enough the dangers of a migrant voyage in the Mona Passage, especially considering the austere environment and remoteness of Mona Island in the darkness of the night. Furthermore, migrants who are interdicted at sea will find they will be ineligible for parole and will be returned to the country from where the voyage originated.”
Coast Guard watch standers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, received a communication from Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources park rangers at 11:30 p.m. Sunday, who relayed hearing screams of distress coming from the water and sighting a flare in the area.
Coast Guard watch standers diverted the Coast Guard cutter Margaret Norvell and directed the launch of a forward-deployed HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Borinquen to search for survivors. Watch standers further issued an urgent marine information broadcast to alert vessel traffic of the ongoing distress and requested assistance from the crew of Kydon, which was transiting near Mona Island at the time of the distress. Kydon is a passenger/ro-ro ferry that operates between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.
Once on scene, the Coast Guard air crew launched an MK-124 flare to illuminate the area and located a person in the water swimming toward Mona Island. The Coast Guard air crew proceeded to vector-in a rescue boat crew from Kydon, who were able to recover the person from the water. Margaret Norvell arrived on scene shortly thereafter and embarked the survivor, who informed personnel of additional people in the water.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard air crew located the five additional migrants safely on Sardinera Beach, who were assisted by responding park rangers on Mona Island. No injuries or medical emergencies were reported.
Transfer of the migrants is being coordinated with U.S. Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents in Puerto Rico.
Margaret Norvell is a 154-foot fast response cutter home-ported in Miami.
– U.S. Coast Guard