Turks and Caicos: 20 people found dead, including two children, on boat

Authorities in Turks and Caicos are investigating after a boat was found drifting about a mile off Grand Turk island with 20 dead people on board, including two children.

Officials said investigators had ruled out foul play but were still trying to determine what happened. The identities and origin of the dead were also under investigation.

Fishermen spotted the small boat Thursday morning and alerted the marine branch of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, who towed the vessel ashore.

The police communications officer, Takara Bain, said in a news release that investigators had discounted foul play and were looking at other possibilities, without giving any specifics.

Police Commissioner Trevor Botting said the boat appeared to have come from outside the Caribbean and authorities did not think it had the Turks and Caicos as its destination.

In a statement, Botting said that officers were working to establish the victims’ identities and the manner of their death.

“This work will take some time to complete. Whatever the circumstances, this is a tragic situation where many people have lost their lives, and the thoughts and prayers of the force go out to those families who have lost a loved one. We will do all we can to identify them and contact their families,” he said.

The Turks and Caicos are often a magnet for Haitians seeking to escape poverty, and the territory also has been used as a transshipment point by human traffickers.

In recent months, Haiti has been shaken by political unrest and a surge in gang violence which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

On Friday, Turks and Caicos police intercepted a 40-ft vessel carrying 43 Haitian migrants, including one child, off the island of Providenciales.

In June 2020, Sri Lanka-born Canadian citizen Srikajamukam Chelliah pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges before a Turks and Caicos judge and was sentenced to 14 months in prison. He was extradited to Florida and sentenced on 24 February to 32 months in prison for conspiring to smuggle people into the United States.

Chelliah had been caught in August 2019 skippering a boat carrying 158 people, including 28 Sri Lankans. They told investigators they were bound for the United States.

Comments are closed.