US Coast Guard, Auxiliary and Miami Marlins team up to save lives

Thursday, July 5, 2012

MIAMI – The tragic deaths earlier this year of more than 40 Dominicans who drown when an overloaded smuggling boat capsized off the coast of the Dominican Republic have brought together the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Miami Marlins baseball organization in a team effort to save lives.

Marilyn Fajardo, deputy public affairs officer with the Coast Guard’s 7th District public affairs office in Miami, said, “The February tragedy involving more than 60 persons in the Bay of Samana cried out for an appeal to Dominican nationals and others to stop risking their lives on the open water in search of better opportunities elsewhere. We felt that if they could hear that message from someone they all knew about and respected, they might think twice before taking to the sea. We believe Miami Marlins centerfielder Emilio Bonifacio, a Dominican national well known in his homeland, is just that person.”

Through the cooperative efforts of the Marlins organization, Bonifacio worked with Coast Guard and Auxiliary personnel shooting Spanish-language public service video announcements that were recently distributed to Hispanic television networks serving the Caribbean.

“Thousands of Dominican immigrants, along with many Haitian and Cuban migrants, attempt to cross the treacherous Mona Passage to get to Puerto Rico. The voyage to enter the United States illegally is dangerous and could cost you your life and that of your loved ones. The Coast Guard has saved many lives, but many have been lost at sea,” Bonifacio said in his message. “Wanting a better life should not be at the risk of losing it. Do not risk your lives…do not take to the sea.”

A Reuters news report on the tragedy said 19 other passengers on the immigrant smuggling boat were rescued and admitted to a medical center with injuries following a large scale rescue effort involving the Dominican Navy, and three helicopters and a cutter from the U.S. Coast Guard in Puerto Rico.

“Poor Dominicans in search of better opportunities often set out late at night on flimsy, overloaded boats, known as yolas, trying to cross the Mona Passage and reach the shores of Puerto Rico, but many die in the attempt.” according to Reuters.

“Migrants are risking their lives when they trust ruthless smugglers to make the dangerous voyage…without any consideration to weather conditions or the safety and lives of their passengers,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, Coast Guard Sector San Juan Commander.

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