KEY LARGO, FLA. (WSVN) – Federal authorities said they have taken more than 300 Haitian migrants into custody after a grounded sailing vessel was spotted near Key Largo, as they investigate what they described as a suspected maritime smuggling event.
At around 3 p.m. on Saturday, U.S. Border Patrol, Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue units responded to the migrant vessel near Ocean Reef Club.
Investigators said 113 of the migrants got in the water without life jackets and managed to swim to shore. They were taken into Border Patrol custody and will be transferred to the Border Patrol’s Dania Beach facility.
Just after 5:20 p.m., 7SkyForce hovered above the vessel as Coast Guard crews slowly removed the roughly 200 people who remained on board the vessel. They will be repatriated.
Officials said there are some women and children among the migrants, but the majority of them are men.
Coast Guard crews used two cutters and at least three of their small inflatable boats to remove the passengers from the vessel.
Investigators said they have identified “two suspected smugglers” and will partner with Homeland Security Investigations to prosecute these individuals.
Back on shore, pictures captured several of the passengers as they sat draped in towels. Some were seen holding plastic water bottles.
First responders evaluated the passengers and provided medical care to those who needed it. Four migrants were taken to an area hospital where they were treated for dehydration. They are expected to be OK.
Just before 6:30 p.m., a 7News crew saw two large buses driven by armed security guards going inside the Ocean Reef Club.
Authorities said they are attempting to determine why so many migrant landings have happened at or near Ocean Reef Club.
Over the past two days, Border Patrol units have responded to 16 migrant landings in the Florida Keys.
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