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Press Release | Jan. 11, 2024

Coast Guard rescues 9 migrants from sunken vessel near Dominican Republic

MIAMI — Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier’s crew and a unit from the Dominican Republic Navy combined efforts to rescue nine migrants from an unseaworthy vessel that sank near the coast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

A Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew notified Coast Guard Sector San Juan watchstanders of a migrant voyage at approximately 8 p.m., Jan. 3, roughly 40 miles offshore. The aircrew reported that the vessel appeared to be in distress with an unknown number of people in the water.

Watchstanders diverted USCGC Joseph Napier and notified the Dominican Republic Navy, which launched a maritime asset to assist in the response. Once on scene, Joseph Napier’s crew recovered all nine people in the water. After conducting interviews with the survivors, the crew determined that all people from the migrant venture were accounted for.

Medical personnel reported that several of the survivors suffered chemical burns, presumably from exposure to the sinking vessel’s fuel in the water. Joseph Napier’s crew transferred all nine migrants to the Dominican Republic Navy vessel, which brought them to shore in the Dominican Republic for repatriation and further medical evaluation.

"You often hear us say that unlawful maritime migration is always dangerous and very often deadly. That is not rhetoric or hyperbole, as our Coast Guard crews all too regularly respond to rescue migrants in dire medical need or distress who attempted the journey," said Lt. Cmdr. John W. Beal, Coast Guard District Seven public affairs officer. "Coast Guard crews and our partners in Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast will continue to rescue and repatriate anyone attempting to enter the U.S. unlawfully by sea. Do not take to the sea and risk your life just to be sent back. Use the safe, orderly and lawful pathways DHS and the State Department made available."

The Coast Guard, along with its Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast partners, maintains a continual presence with air, land and sea assets in the Florida Straits, the Windward Passage, the Mona Passage, and the Caribbean Sea in support of Operation Vigilant Sentry. The HSTF-SE combined, multi-layered approach is designed to protect the safety of life at sea while preventing unlawful maritime entry to the United States and its territories.


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