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3 Immigrants Die After Boat Flips

July 16, 2001

ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands (AP) _ A boat carrying illegal immigrants overturned Sunday while trying to flee a U.S. Coast Guard vessel in the Caribbean, killing at least three people, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard rescued 20 survivors and was searching for two more believed missing after the boat capsized in international waters about 20 miles southeast of the British Virgin Islands, Coast Guard duty officer Tim Lavier said. Two women and a man were confirmed dead.

The boat had left French St. Martin and was apparently headed for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lavier said.

The passengers on board were Colombian, Haitian, Mexican and Dominican. Officials had not confirmed the nationalities of the people who died.

A Coast Guard patrol ship spotted the boat around 1 a.m. Sunday and became suspicious because the passengers tried to crouch out of sight and the boat appeared to be evading the patrol ship, Lavier said. Then the boat slowed down and a wave came over the bow, causing it to overturn, he said.

``They were trying to get away and made a tragic mistake,″ Lavier said.

The ocean’s swells were 4-5 feet high at the time, he said.

Authorities have not yet identified the captain of the boat. The survivors were to be turned over to U.S. immigration authorities.

Update hourly