The U.S. Coast Guard was continuing their search Friday for a group of Cuban boaters whose vessel overturned near the Florida Keys, leaving two people dead and 10 others missing.
Officials said they searched by air and water throughout the night and would continue to search throughout the day Friday with the assistance of the U.S. Navy, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Customs and Border Protection.
The Coast Guard responded to a location about 18 miles southwest of Key West around 1 p.m. Thursday after crews on routine patrol spotted multiple people in the water, according to the agency. Crews rescued eight people and pulled two bodies from the water, Petty Officer Jose Hernandez said.
Two Coast Guard cutters and several small boats searched the area for the missing passengers, Hernandez said. There was no immediate sign of the overturned boat.
The survivors reported that they left Puerto de Mariel, Cuba, on Sunday and capsized Wednesday evening, the Coast Guard said in a statement. The survivors were transferred to a Coast Guard vessel to receive food, water and medical attention, according to officials.
Authorities didn’t immediately say what type of boat the people had been traveling in.
Retired law enforcement helicopter pilot Orlando Villaverde the helicopters the Coast Guard has searching for the migrants are ideally suited for the job.
"The use of helicopter with advanced telemetry technology with what we call FLIR — Forward Infrared Looking Camera — can assist in just about any search—rescue of this magnitude," said Villaverde, aviation director at Miami-Dade College.
The Coast Guard Cutter Resolute was the first to spot the migrants in the water. Two of them had already died, and the eight survivors were still being held on board the ship.
Anthony Salisbury, the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, said anyone who attempts to enter the United States illegally by sea is putting their life on the line.
"They don’t care about safety. They don’t care about regulations," Salisbury said. "You are dealing with a criminal element. They may be cartel-associated, they may be part of a cartel themselves…These are smugglers, they are professional criminal smugglers and they will do whatever it takes to get what they consider nothing more than a package from point A to point B."