B.V.I. authorities Monday recovered the bodies of five illegal immigrants, including two infants, who died when their boat hit a reef early Monday near the outer entrance to Paraquita Bay on Tortola’s south side.
Most of the passengers were thrown from the 28-foot boat, which eventually sank.
“But two of the dead were found inside the boat,” said Dean Fahie, deputy comptroller at B.V.I. Customs.
All the dead, as well as the 28 others detained by the U.S. Coast Guard and B.V.I. authorities, hailed from Haiti, Fahie said Monday.
Authorities continue the search for additional survivors or bodies.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark rescued 14 survivors from the water, while B.V.I. authorities have accounted for 14 other survivors, who are currently detained or receiving medical attention ashore.
A Dutch Dash-8 aircraft crew initially detected the vessel with more than 30 people aboard Sunday night traveling at high rate of speed on a course from Saint Maarten to the Virgin Islands. The original departure point of the vessel remains unknown.
The Coast Guard in San Juan received a report from the Dutch aircraft and diverted the Reef Shark to investigate. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air and Marine Branch Dash-8 aircraft was also launched and relocated the vessel on a course to Tortola. B.V.I. Drug Squad Marine units also responded.
The Reef Shark attempted to close in on the vessel, but was able to come only within a mile before the migrant vessel hit the reef shortly after midnight.
“It was running at a high rate of speed,” Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said.
The Coast Guard sent helicopters to assist the Reef Shark in looking for possible survivors.
According to Fahie, B.V.I. authorities last apprehended illegal immigrants several months ago.
The Reef Shark, which homeports in Puerto Rico, was in St. John Sunday to assist in the grounding of the General II, one of the barges that transports vehicles between St. Thomas and St. John.