Stowaways Found on Barge in Puerto Rico
Twelve stowaways were found on a barge in San Juan Harbor, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan received notification from a Coast Guard Station San Juan boat crew at 8:34 a.m., Saturday, of a possible stowaway sighting aboard the barge that was being towed by the U.S.-registered tugboat Sarah Dann.
Coast Guard Sector San Juan’s Boarding Team responded to the report and found nine stowaways aboard the barge, including one who was unresponsive. The unresponsive stowaway was reported to be breathing and have vital signs. The boarding team also learned that three other stowaways in the group had jumped into the water during the vessel’s transit just off the entrance of San Juan Harbor.
Coast Guard watchstanders directed Coast Guard on-scene units to search for the three reported stowaways in the water, while a Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit also responded to assist. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Border Patrol authorities apprehended two of the stowaways who were able to swim to shore, while the remaining stowaway was rescued from the water by a Coast Guard Station San Juan crew aboard a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft - Law Enforcement.
A Station San Juan boat crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat Medium transported the nine stowaways from the barge to Coast Guard Base San Juan where Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations units received custody, while the unresponsive stowaway was received and transported by Emergency Medical Service personnel to a local hospital.
“I cannot emphasize enough just how dangerous it is to have stowaways board or jump from a moving barge,” said Capt. Robert M. Pirone, Sector San Juan acting commander. “The quick response and close collaboration of all responding Coast Guard and partner agency units prevented a tragic outcome and accounted for the safety of all the stowaways in this case.”