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Boat Hits Reef, Spills Illegal Immigrants

Oct. 18, 2004 — Twenty-one individuals were detained after their boat sank north of St. Thomas, officials said Monday.
The 21 swam to tiny Hans-Lollik Island early Sunday morning after their 30-foot boat struck an underwater reef and broke apart, said Ivan Ortiz, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A V.I. police officer spotted the wreckage and called the U.S. Coast Guard, Ortiz said.
The immigrants were cut and bruised from the ordeal and one man, who claimed to be a U.S. citizen, suffered from compound leg fracture bleeding heavily, Ortiz said.
A Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the man off the uninhabited island and flew him to Roy Lester Schneider hospital in St. Thomas, said Lt. j.g. Eric Willis, a Coast Guard spokesman.
A Coast Guard boat escorted the other immigrants to shore where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took them into custody, Willis said.
Ten of the migrants were from the Dominican Republic, seven from China, one from French St. Martin, one from Jamaica, a Haitian and an American, Ortiz said.
It was not clear why an American would be on the boat, he said. Ortiz also was not able to say how many were men or women nor the boat's point of departure.
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