Coast Guard unable to locate boat with dead bodies offshore Guyana
…says bad weather at sea, assumes vessel submerged
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard were unable to locate the vessel with dead bodies, which was spotted offshore Guyana on Monday.
As Guyanese authorities continue their search for the boat, which is suspected to have some 10 decomposed bodies, it is suspected that the boat has either drifted further out at sea or has possibly been submerged due to inclement weather conditions.
Public Works Minister Juan Edghill during an emergency press conference on Tuesday evening at the Maritime Boat House at Stabroek Stelling, Georgetown, said the Government is very much concerned and distressed about the matter.
He told the media that the boat was first spotted on Monday at about 14:02h, 112 nautical miles off Guyana’s shore, and was last seen around 19:53h some 83 nautical miles from Guyana’s shore on Monday evening.
The Minister said a crew from ExxonMobil drilling operations offshore Guyana had informed the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) of the sighting.
“The Maritime Administration Department requested of the crew to attempt to put a tow line on that boat, with the intent of towing it all the way to the sea buoy or the pilot station which is about 10 miles off this location,” Edghill said, noting that the crew needed permission from their principals in which they sought and got by 15:00h on Monday.
He said efforts to carry out that exercise proved unsuccessful.
“The second request that came from the Maritime Administration was to stay and keep an eye on the boat while we seek to mobilise other asset and resources to get that boat captured, attach a towline and bring it to the sea buoy,” he said.
According to the Public Works Minister, the boat was sighted again at 19:55h, and the crew were unable to get close to the boat to attach it to another vessel and tow it to shore due to bad weather.
He added that two boats with members of the GDF Coast Guard, Police ranks and local residents were dispatched from North West along with a helicopter from the GDF.
MARAD also had the support from ExxonMobil, who sent a helicopter on the mission, but the boat was still not sighted.
“Having had five hours of aerial surveillance and the scoping of the general area by two fast boats carrying 400 horsepower engines…we haven’t gotten any sighting as yet…this, unfortunately, causing distress because we have not been able to get it attached to a tow line and we have not seen it for the entire day,” he said.
Authorities are now of the belief that the boat may have drifted into the country’s waters from another country, given the direction in which it was coming.
“This could’ve been a boat that is coming even off of Africa based upon the direction and how it was drifting,” the Minister said.
Minister Edghill told the media that no boat has been reported missing in Guyana and he has made contact with the authorities in Suriname to inquire if they had any reports of a missing vessel and crew, but there have been no reports of a missing boat or crew.
Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn said when or if authorities retrieve the vessel, the Guyana Police Force will take charge in investigating to determine the origin of the victims and the circumstances surrounding the situation.
Also present at the emergency press conference was Director General of the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), Stephen Thomas and Director of Maritime Safety, Captain John Flores.