Immigration head: Persons found culpable in deadly Haitian voyage will be prosecuted

Immigration head: Persons found culpable in deadly Haitian voyage will be prosecuted
Director of Immigration, Clarence Russell speaks to the press.

RBDF continues search, high-level meeting held to discuss deaths


NASSAU, BAHAMAS – If persons are found culpable in planning the tragic voyage which led to the death of 27 Haitians over the weekend, they should expect harsh consequences, according to Immigration Director Clarence A. Russell.

“Director of Immigration Mr. Clarence A. Russell expressed his sincere condolences and noted that an investigation into this matter is ongoing. He further noted that where persons are found to be culpable in this ordeal which resulted in this grave tragedy, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” outlined a statement released Monday by Bahamas Immigration.

Immigration said a high-level meeting was held in Abaco on Monday to discuss the way forward as it relates to the 27 bodies recovered.

“During this meeting, it was confirmed that the official death count to date stands at 27. Additionally, a total of 18 persons have been rescued,” Immigration reported.

“It was further noted that while an additional body was spotted officials were unable to retrieve the body as it was being circled by sharks.”

Immigration further revealed that Her Majesty’s Acting Coroner, Jeanine Weech-Gomez and her team, along with First Secretary Karl Henri Chatelier from The Embassy of The Republic of Haiti in The Bahamas were also on the ground in Abaco as of yesterday.

Immigration said all official proceedings in reference to the handling of the deceased persons will be conducted in Abaco.

“A meeting with First Secretary Chatelier of the Haitian Embassy in The Bahamas and the survivors of this ordeal is scheduled to take place sometime today [Monday],” Immigration said.

A statement released Monday from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) outlined that divers along with local authorities and dive operators also continued their dive operations on Monday in the area where the sunken vessel was spotted, six miles off the coast of Marsh Harbour.

“However, there have been no new developments,” the RBDF said.

According to the RBDF, the Haitian men and women were aboard a 40-foot conventional sailing yacht when it ran aground early Saturday morning outside the entrance of the Marsh Harbour channel.

Up to post time last night, attempts to reach the Haitian Charge d’ Affaires in The Bahamas for comment proved futile. However, The U.S. Embassy in Haiti, in a tweet around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday referred to the deaths as another tragic loss of life.

“No journey is worth risking lives,” the Embassy tweeted. “Please urge families and communities [that] illegal migrant and smuggling operations are dangerous and frequently end in tragedy.”