Stealth smuggling job goes awry


JUNE 11 Coast Guard officials south of Boca Chica, Fla., Saturday stopped a sport boat loaded with more than 30 Cuban migrants by firing two rounds into one of its engines.

Officials first noticed the 36-foot Carrera just after 6 a.m. traveling at a high speed and without its running lights, a Coast Guard press release says. After disobeying a number of orders to stop the boat, the operator allegedly attempted to ram the sport boat into the Coast Guard vessel five times. The Carrera came to a stop when a specially trained Coast Guard officer fired two bullets into one of the boat’s three engines. Three suspected smugglers were taken into custody.

When Coast Guard officers boarded the boat they found that a number of the passengers needed medical treatment, the release says. One woman, who had suffered bruises to her face and other head injuries, was pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital in Key West, Fla. No injuries were sustained because of the Coast Guard’s firing, according to the release.

“These ruthless smugglers recklessly placed these people in harm’s way by operating at high rates of speed in seas of up to 4 feet, by operating without navigational lights, by ignoring repeated orders to stop and by grossly overloading the vessel,” Capt. Phil Heyl, commander of Coast Guard Sector Key West, says in the release. “There was no way for these people to brace themselves against the impact of the boat slamming into the rough seas.”

— Jason Fell