Coast Guard rescues 34 Haitians dumped by smugglers on Puerto Rico cliff

Coast Guard rescues 34 Haitians dumped by smugglers on Puerto Rico cliff

The U.S. Coast Guard said crews rescued 34 Haitians abandoned by smugglers on a cliff in Puerto Rico on Monday.

USCG Cutter Heriberto Hernandez, a 154-foot vessel homeported in San Juan, responded to reports of a group of people stranded on the uninhabited natural reserve of Monito Cay, which is just off Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Coast Guard watchstanders in San Juan initially reported the abandoned group after receiving communication from Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Park Rangers. A Coast Guard Ocean Sentry aircraft flew above the area and confirmed multiple camp fires. The vessel responded.

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The U.S. Coast Guard rescues 34 Haitians abandoned by smugglers in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescues 34 Haitians abandoned by smugglers in Puerto Rico.
(USCGSoutheast/Twitter)

Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez commanding officer Lt. Robert Renfrow said the crew perfectly executed the high-risk, five-hour water rescue with 10 to 15-foot swells. Renfrow stated in a statement that this case shows that smugglers are more than willing and able to abandon people in extremely dangerous environments like Monito.

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A small U.S. Coast Guard boat launched from cutter Heriberto Hernandez rescues migrants abandoned by smugglers.

A small U.S. Coast Guard boat, launched from Heriberto Hernandez, rescues migrants who have been abandoned by smugglers.
(U.S. Coast Guard)

To complete the rescue, cutter Heriberto Hernandez launched a small boat to approach the cliff as the group of people moved to the lowest point. Each person took turns jumping off the cliff into the water, and the small boat pulled them to safety. The small boat returned to the larger vessel and the group was given food, water, and basic medical care. The survivors, 26 men, seven women and one boy, were transferred to Ramey Sector U.S Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The rescue was part of ongoing multiagency efforts to support Operation Caribbean Guard, and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez looks at the cliff on Monito Cay, Puerto Rico where smugglers abandoned Haitian migrants.

Coast Guard cutter Heriberto Hernandez, U.S. Coast Guard, looks at Monito Cay in Puerto Rico, where smugglers left Haitian migrants.
(U.S. Coast Guard)

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Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, the Coast Guard reportedly intercepted 11 illegal voyages in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico carrying a total of 324 people without American citizenship. The USCG said 300 of those people were Dominican, 23 were Haitian and one person’s nationality was unknown.

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