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News Last Updated: Feb 6, 2019 - 7:14:16 PM

NEMA on Haitian tragedy at sea
By Captain Stephen Russell, Director, NEMA
Feb 6, 2019 - 5:11:35 PM

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – The following is a statement by Captain Stephen Russell, Director, National Emergency Management Agency:

I wish to advise that after speaking with Maxine Duncombe, Administrator for the Central Abaco District, the following was noted in respect of the disaster that occurred at sea on Saturday, February 2, 2019 off Fowl Cay near Man-o-War Cay, Abaco.

First, let me on behalf of the people of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas extend condolences to the people of Haiti and to our Haitian brothers and sisters throughout The Bahamas.

According to police reports, a vessel carrying approximately 83 persons: 76 males and 7 females capsized around the said surrounding cays. There were no children. All of the persons onboard the boat were Haitian nationals. The official number of persons deceased stood at 27.

So far, only 18 persons survived the ill-fated journey. These individuals have been turned over to the appropriate authorities for processing. All 27 of the deceased were placed at the Abaco health facility in Marsh Harbour. On the ground were coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez, along with her team of pathologists, Drs, Caryn Sands and Kiko Bridgewater.

At 2:00 pm on February 4, 2019 the upper court set up as a place for persons within the Haitian community to visit and possibly identify the deceased.

I am advised that no bodies will be released until the deceased persons are identified and embalmed.

The team including the Immigration Officers, Police Officers, the coroner, First Secretary Karl Henri Chatelier of the Haitian Embassy in The Bahamas, along with local representatives from the Haitian community met February 4, 2019 to hear concerns and to share the way forward.

It is believed that the tragedy occurred as a result of engine problems and the vessel ended up in the cays of Abaco.

We are saddened by this terrible loss. We know that an incident of this kind has happened before in Abaco. But it was never to this magnitude where so many lives were loss.

We are thankful to the many volunteers of the Hope Town Fire & Rescue, Guana and Man-O-War Cay volunteers, divers, Department of Local Government, the armed forces, non-profit organizations, the Department of Immigration, the Department of Public Health, Tropical Shipping, the Office of The Prime Minister, the Department of Environmental Health Services, the coroner and her team of pathologists, the Magistrate courts in Marsh Harbour, and the office of the administrator and the United States Coast Guard for ensuring that this exercise was done as smoothly and as humanely possible.

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