By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
TWO Bahamian men, along with 26 illegal immigrants, including a 16-year-old girl, were apprehended by the US Coast Guard after their speedboat experienced engine trouble 17 miles off the Florida coast.
It is alleged that the two Bahamians were attempting to smuggle 24 Haitians and two Ecuadorians illegally into the United States.
According to an immigration official, the men reportedly left Freeport around midnight last Thursday onboard a 30ft Scarab, which developed engine problems five hours after leaving Grand Bahama.
The disabled boat was spotted by a passing private vessel which alerted the US Coast Guard. The USCG Cutter Bernard C Webber responded, took the group onboard and transported them to Lucayan Harbour, where they were turned over to the Bahamas Immigration authorities.
Immigration officer Napthali Cooper reported that one of the Bahamian men had been previously caught and has a smuggling case still pending in the courts.
He reported that two of the Haitian men – one of whom was born in the Bahamas – were recently arrested and sent to the Detention Centre after they were caught in a previous smuggling attempt from the Bahamas.
Mr Cooper also reported that a 16-year-old girl, who was born in the Bahamas, was also among the group. He said the group was processed at Immigration Headquarters. The Bahamian men are expected to be charged in court this week.
In a separate matter, 17 persons were also discovered stranded in the area of Memory Rock off West End, Grand Bahama, on Saturday afternoon.
The group, which consisted of 14 Haitians, three Jamaicans and one Ecuadorian, was picked up by the US Coast Guard and is expected to be brought to Freeport and turned over to Immigration officials at Lucayan Harbour.
Mr Cooper also reported that the USCG spotted a third group of 22 Cubans discovered stranded for a few day on a cay with a lighthouse. The USCG is expected to arrive with them early this week at Lucayan Harbour, where they will be turned over to Immigration authorities.