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Sailboat Sinks Off Haiti; 15 Die, Dozens Missing

March 17, 2001|Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A sailboat carrying Dominicans attempting to reach Puerto Rico sank off Haiti, killing at least 15 people and leaving dozens missing, authorities said Friday.

The boat went down early Thursday morning after striking a coral reef off the southern end of Ile-a-Vache, a small island about 90 miles southwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince, said Dr. Witner Pierre, a regional health ministry official.

He said there were 60 Dominicans aboard, apparently hoping to enter Puerto Rico illegally.

Three Dominicans survived by swimming to shore, Pierre said. Two were in good condition, but the third was severely dehydrated.

Fifteen bodies were recovered after they washed ashore, but the remaining 42 aboard were missing, Pierre said.

The passengers had sailed from the Dominican Republic aiming for Puerto Rico but went off-course and were apparently adrift in the Caribbean for 24 days before Thursday's accident, Pierre said.

Thousands of Dominicans undertake the dangerous sea passage to Puerto Rico every year, hoping to improve their lives on the relatively wealthy U.S. island.

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