17 Migrants Dead as Detained Boat Capsizes Off Turks and Caicos

The remains of all 17 people have been recovered.

Seventeen migrants died when their overloaded boat, which had been detained and was being escorted by authorities, capsized Wednesday off the Turks and Caicos Islands, a spokesman for the British territory's police force said.

Officials originally reported 18 casualties, but the count was revised to 17 Thursday evening, Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force Commissioner Colin Farquhar told NBC News.

Government spokesman Neil Smith said the remains of all the deceased were recovered. All were believed to have been migrants from Haiti.

The sailboat had been detained early Wednesday by the marine division of the Turks and Caicos Royal Police Force and was being escorted to the island of Providenciales when it overturned near shore.

The boat capsized as it was being towed into dock by the police force to offload the suspects. Officials said they were on scene with the sail freighter when it collapsed.

Farquhar told NBC News the search for additional bodies was put on hold due to worsening light conditions and sea state, but a scaled-down search would continue Thursday.

Thirty-three people were detained as suspected illegal Haitian immigrants consisting of 21 males, including one child, and 12 females, reported NBC News. Officials said they would be repatriated to Haiti as soon as possible.

Of the 17 dead, 12 were male and five were female, and all were adults, according to NBC News. The remains will also be repatriated following autopsies.

More than 100 people were suspected to be on board the boat that was spotted from the Turks and Caicos Marine branch just after 4 a.m., according to the Turks and Caicos Sun

Police are still searching for some migrants who fled the scene once they reached shore.

Last month, about 30 Haitian migrants drowned when their boat struck ground and capsized near the Bahamas. More than 1,500 migrants year, 90 percent of which were from Haiti, were detained in the Bahamas this year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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