Heavy with nearly 40 undocumented migrants, the boat was nearing Marsh Harbour on the northern side of the island when a storm set it off course and left passengers stranded on Fowl Cay and Man-O-War Cay.
The capsized vessel was spotted by a U.S. Coast Guard, sending local authorities, police, volunteers, and immigration officers out into the waters Saturday night.
The RBDF has recovered the lifeless bodies of 28 victims between the two cays. The 17 survivors were transferred to a local clinic for treatment, while at least one passenger suffering from life-threatening injuries was transferred to New Providence.
“Crewmembers aboard HMBS Durward Knowles subsequently conducted a dive operation along with a local diver and recovered the bodies from the vessel yesterday [on Saturday] afternoon,” a statement from the RBDF said Sunday.
“Director of Immigration, Mr. Clarence A. Russell along with a team including a Public Relations Press Officer Braddesha Lloyd is expected to travel to Abaco tomorrow for further investigations and to lend support and encourage the Abaco team,” the RBDF said.
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti tweeted, “No journey is worth risking lives. Please urge families and communities [that] illegal migrant and smuggling operations are dangerous and frequently end in tragedy.”
In Haiti, some religious groups are urging nationals to restrain from leaving the country illicitly. Over 70 pastors met Saturday in solidarity with the mourning families, Dr. Jean Paul Charles, president League of Haitian Pastors told local media.
““We held an emergency meeting to see what we can do...Our hearts for out to those that lost their lives and their families. We sympathize with all of them. As you can see it’s an ongoing thing, as much as we do to spread our message, people will still risk their lives to come,” Charles said.
Charles told Tribune reporters, “We don’t know any family members yet, because they will wait to see the others who are alive. Those in Haiti are calling to see if their family are alive but we don’t have any identifications yet.”
The recent tragedy revived stories of a 2013 shipwreck that left 30 Haitians dead after a storm toss the boat off course. It took authorities a week to find the weck’s 110 survivors who were allegedly seriously dehydrated.
Some 300 Haitian migrants have been intercepted en route to the Bahamas so far this year. The RBDF said that as many as six boats will allude immigration officials and deliverer around 80 to 90 Haitians at a time.