A boat with 20 dead bodies on board, including two children, was found drifting roughly a mile off Grand Turk Island, which is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
According to the Associated Press, foul play has been ruled out by investigators, but they’re still trying to uncover what happened. Authorities are also trying to learn the identities of the deceased on board.
The boat was spotted by a fisherman. The marine branch of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force was alerted, and the vessel was subsequently towed back to shore revealing dead bodies.
No specifics were provided, but police communications officer Takara Bain stated in a news release that foul play is not suspected.
AP also reported that Police Commissioner Trevor Botting believes the boat came from outside the Caribbean and that Turks and Caicos is not believed to have been its intended destination.
The Turks and Caicos are a popular target for Haitians looking to flee their home country. The publication also suggested that the territory is also a popular destination for human traffickers.
Last year, a Sri Lanka-born Canadian citizen, Srikajamukam Chelliah, filed a guilty plea on human trafficking charges in front of a Turks and Caicos judge after he was found captaining a boat with 158 people on it. Chelliah got a 14-month prison sentence, then was extradited to Florida where he received a 32-month prison sentence on charges of conspiring to smuggle that on board into the U.S.
Botting added, “Whatever the circumstances, this is a tragic situation where many people have lost their lives, and the thoughts and prayers of the Force go out to those families who have lost a loved one. We will do all we can to identify them and contact their families.”
Our thoughts go out to the families of those affected by this massive tragedy.