Caribbean nationals arrested in smuggling trip

United States law enforcement authorities confirmed on Oct. 18 that six of the 11 Caribbean migrants who survived a deadly smuggling trip that ended when a motorboat capsized seven miles off Miami Beach have been arrested.

Law enforcement and immigration authorities said those arrested include the 25 feet boat’s Bahamian-born captain Naaman Davis and Jamaican-born crewman George Lewis.

The arrest comes as authorities investigated the boat accident involving Haitian, Jamaican and Bahamian migrants.

The U.S. Coast Guard said four people were killed and 11 rescued after the boat carrying the Caribbean migrants capsized early on Oct. 16

Officials said the six arrestees were previously deported from the U.S., and that most of them had been convicted of serious crimes.

Lewis faces a charge of attempted smuggling of the migrants, officials said.

The fatal voyage reportedly began in the Bahamas, and ended at about 2:00 a.m. on Oct. 16, when U.S. Coast Guard crews rescued the survivors.

The criminal complaint said six of the Caribbean migrants interviewed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security identified Davis and Lewis as the alleged smugglers.

“Another one of the migrants interviewed stated that prior to their being brought ashore, Lewis had directed them all to tell the Coast Guard that the vessel captain swam away and never came back,” the complaint says.

Reports indicate that Lewis was deported from the U.S. on May 13 over a drug-trafficking conviction, and that Davis was deported on Mar. 7.

The other four men, whose nationalities were not disclosed, are Sean Gaynor, Kenard Hagigal, Matthew Williams and Everton Jones, who is also known as Everton Bryce. All six face charges of entering the U.S. illegally after being deported.

Reports also indicate that Williams was deported on Oct. 31, 2012, after being convicted of selling drugs on school property and selling controlled substances.

Hagigal was deported on May 31, 2012, after being convicted of money laundering.

Gaynor was deported on Oct. 27, 2011, after being in the U.S. illegally, and Jones was deported on Oct. 14, 2010, after a drug conviction.

The Coast Guard said crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Miami Beach, Fl. rescued the survivors “clinging to a hull seven nautical miles east of Miami, early Wednesday morning.”

It said watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Miami received a report at about 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday from a Miami-Dade County 911 dispatch of the capsized vessel “and launched a boat crew from Station Miami Beach and an MH-65 helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami to respond.”

The Coast Guard said the survivors were “clinging to the hull of the overturned vessel.

“One of the survivors was medically evacuated to Station Miami Beach, where emergency medical services awaited,” the Coast Guard said.

It said a Miami Sheriff’s Office air asset was searching alongside the Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station Miami for more survivors.

The dead passengers were found in the water, the Coast Guard said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the deceased,” said Capt. Austin Gould, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami.

“This tragic case reiterates the dangers of traveling aboard an overcrowded boat at night with no safety equipment on board,” he added.

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