Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, February 8, 2014
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Coast Guard confirms 4 dead, 7 rescued
Zeeland anchors in harbor after delay

For the crew of Royal Netherlands Navy, the HNLMS Zeeland, it was a another day at sea, heading south toward Key West for a port visit.

However, that changed when about 75 miles northeast of West Palm Beach, the Zeeland stumbled across a capsized 24-foot center console vessel with seven suspected migrants clinging atop the hull of the boat. There were three more dead bodies inside the hull, the Seventh Coast Guard Coast Guard reported Thursday.

A fourth person has been confirmed dead Friday, Coast Guard Petty Office Sabrina Laberdesque said from her Miami office on Friday.

"It is still under investigation, so I cannot release anymore information as to ages, gender or where they are from," she said.

Laberdesque wouldn't confirm if the migrants were Cuban or Haitian, or if they would be transported back to their home country.

"We will have to meet with all agencies involved to decide what to do from here," she said. "That could take a couple of days or more."

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Seventh District command center in Miami received a report early Thursday afternoon from the Royal Netherlands Navy Zeeland of the capsized boat. The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge and an HC-130 from Air Station Clearwater were sent to the scene.

The suspected migrants were then transferred from the Zeeland to the Coast Guard cutter Richard Etheridge and finally to shore.

"There are no medical concerns at this time (with the migrants)," Laberdesque said.

Customs and Border Protection were not involved in the case, U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Frank Miller said.

"The leadership of Department of Homeland Security will meet and decide what to do with the migrants," he said. "There are different variables involved. It is a presidential directive that all the agencies involved get together and decide what to do, regardless of the nation they are from. They will have to go before an immigration judge."

Miller did not believe the rescued migrants were from Cuba.

The Zeeland arrived on time in Key West Friday morning and unloaded the boat.

sfrederick@keysnews.com

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