The US Coast Guard said the search for more survivors is looking grim four days after a boat capsized off the eastern coast of the state of Florida.
“The longer they remain in the water, without food, without water, exposed to the marine environment, the sun, the sea conditions…every moment that passes, it becomes more dire and unlikely that anyone could survive in those conditions,” Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami, said at a news conference.
In the past 24-hours, the Coast Guard has searched a 75-nautical mile area in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly the size of the state of New Jersey.
The search Wednesday did not result in any survivors.
“We did discover one deceased body, who will be transferred to shore today in Fort Pierce, and we continue to search for other survivors,” said Burdian.
The Coast Guard said a 25-foot boat left Bimini, Bahamas, on Saturday with 40 people, in a suspected human smuggling operation. The vessel capsized shortly after departure due to severe weather.
“In cases like this, small vessels, overloaded, inexperienced operators, at night, in bad weather, is incredibly dangerous,” stressed Burdian.
A tug and barge mariner found one survivor clinging to the overturned vessel on Tuesday. The survivor told investigators none of the 40 people aboard the boat, including himself, were wearing life jackets.
Burdian said that is not a good sign.
“Without life jackets, anyone is disadvantaged to survive in the water. Life jackets save lives, no matter what the circumstance,” she said.
The Coast Guard will continue to search for survivors throughout Wednesday, then re-evaluate the mission.
Burdian said she understands human lives are at stake, but she will eventually have to make the tough call to suspend the search for survivors, adding, “We can’t search forever.”