The journey that ended in tragedy began July 9 in St. Maarten, a Caribbean island whose control is shared by France and the Netherlands.
On board were 19 people including 15 Cubans, one Colombian, one Dominican and two residents of St. Maarten.
They were headed to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a distance of about 122 miles. They never arrived.
The boat capsized sometime between July 9 and 11 somewhere between St. Maarten and the British Virgin Islands, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Never miss a local story.
It is not known precisely what caused the boat to capsize, whether it was overloaded or if it encountered bad weather.
What is clear is that four survivors — two Cubans and the two St. Maarten residents — were rescued July 11 by a passing boat that took them to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
It was the survivors who spoke of the missing people. A major search ensued involving U.S. Coast Guard vessels and aircraft, as well as assets from other countries. The search ended unsuccessfully July 16.
At one point, searchers found four life jackets in the water, but the Coast Guard said it is not sure if they came from the capsized boat.
Ricardo Castrodad, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said he had no breakdown on whether there were women and children among the 15 missing people.