Miami-Dade County

October 18, 2013

Miami-Dade police release 911 call from fatal smuggling trip

Miami-Dade Police on Friday released the recording of the harrowing 911 call they received at 1:01 a.m. Wednesday from an overcrowded motorboat taking on water.

Miami-Dade Police on Friday released the recording of the harrowing 911 call they received at 1:01 a.m. Wednesday from an overcrowded motorboat taking on water.

“We’re 25 miles out from South Beach,” an unidentified man told the female operator. “We need rescue out here, fast.”

The man sounded relatively calm. But behind him were anguished cries from many people.

The 25-foot white boat had violently flipped over — seven miles away from shore, not 25 miles — with 15 smuggled migrants from the Bahamas, Haiti and Jamaica on board. Four women died in the dark waters.

On Thursday, federal authorities arrested six of the surviving 11 migrants, including the boat’s captain and crewman, for attempted smuggling and for returning to the U.S. after having been deported — several of them after being convicted of serious crimes.

But the caller didn’t give any details to the emergency operator.

Three times the operator asked him what the vessel’s GPS coordinates were. No answer. She asked what kind of boat he was on.

“Ma’am, I don’t know,” he said.

“OK,” she asked. “What happened?”

“The boat is sinking,” he said.

Then, after about a minute and a half, the line went dead.

The operator called the U.S. Coast Guard to relay the call. He said he was 25 miles out, the operator repeated.

“Cell phone wouldn’t work out that far,” the Coast Guard officer said.

The operator gave him the latitude and longitude coordinates from the call, and the caller’s cell phone number.

“He told me they were sinking,” she said. “I heard a lot of people in the background.”

What kind of noise were they making? the Coast Guard asked.

“Yelling,” she said.

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