At least 17 people have died and three others are hospitalized after a suspected Haitian migrant ship sank off the Bahamas, Bahamian officials said at a news conference on Sunday.
The ship capsized about seven miles off New Providence, Bahamas, around 1 a.m. Sunday, according to Philip Davis, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas.
Officials believe the vessel, a speedboat, was bound for Miami, Florida, and two Bahamians were helping to smuggle the Haitians into the United States. The speedboat is believed to have struck rough water, which resulted in the vessel capsizing.
Of the 17 bodies pulled from the water, 15 were male, one was female and one was a baby, officials said.
“We mourn the lost lives of those seeking a better way of life,” said Bahamian Minister of Labor and Immigration Keith Bell, “Those who have families and friends in Haiti, encourage your loved ones not to not risk their lives.”
Twenty-five people have been rescued from the water and are being monitored by health officials, according to Clayton Fernander, commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Twenty of those who were rescued have since been taken into Bahamian immigration custody and are being held in a detention center, officials said. Some of those detained said they paid between $3,000 and $8,000 for the trip.
The two Bahamians suspected of smuggling migrants are in custody, according to Fernander. They are suspected of carrying out a human trafficking operation.
Officials said they believe 50 to 60 people were on board the vessel and so far 42 have been counted. They added that rescue efforts are ongoing.
Davis also confirmed that the migrants had already landed in the Bahamas and were leaving the country when the ship capsized.
Similar trips have also ended in deviation or tragedy this year. In May, a ship carrying more than 800 Haitian migrants, which was heading for the United States, veered off course and ran aground in Cuba, leaving the country rushing for humanitarian aid, Reuters reported.
A few days before this incident, 11 Haitian migrants died when their ship capsized off Puerto Rico.