15 Haitian migrants drowned and 65 went missing after their wooden sail boat struck a reef and sank off the Turks and Caicos islands on Sunday, 26 July or Monday, 27 July 2009.
The Haitian shipwreck that took the lives of 15 illegal immigrants occurred on 26 July or 27 July 2009, according to Turks and Caicos police sergeant Calvin Chase. "The boat ran aground on a reef, Molasses Reef, off West Caicos," said Chase.
200 were aboard the overloaded vessel when it sank. 122 people, including 22 women, were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. 15 bodies were recovered and at least 65 people remain missing. Survivors said that they had been sailing for about three days when police boats were spotted. The immigrants, fearing arrest and repatriation, turned towards the reefs.
The injured were taken to Caribbean hospitals. The U.S. Coast Guard performed the rescue operation by sea and air. Winds of up to 37 km/h (23mph) and sea waves up to 1.8m (6 feet) in height hampered the rescue operation. The survivors will be repatriated to Haiti.
Seeking A Better Life
Haitian migrants often leave their country on overcrowded boats, hoping to find employment in the United States, the Bahamas or in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Immigrants pay up to US$500 for a spot on one of these boats. They travel with little food and water and at great risk to their lives. The week of 20-26 July 2009, over 100 Haitian migrants were rescued from an overcrowded ship in the same area and repatriated to Haiti. In May, another such boat capsized, killing nine immigrants. Lt Cdr Matthew Moorlag of the US Coast Guard said, "They don’t have enough life-saving gear or signaling gear to ensure that they are able to survive if they do have any problems at sea."