Smuggling charges brought after boat capsized off Boynton

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

BOYNTON BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The United States Attorney's Office has brought charges against one man in connection with the failed smuggling attempt last week.

Update, MON 3 PM: Jimmy Metellus, charged with Alien Smuggling Resulting in Death, will make his first appearance in magistrate court in West Palm Beach Wednesday.

One of the deceased women was approximately eight months pregnant. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner issued a separate death certificate for the fetus because of its potential viability.

As of May 15, three of deceased have been positively identified by family members and are reported to be citizens of Haiti.

A survivor told federal agents his brother paid $4,000 to a man with a gold tooth organizing an alien smuggling venture from Nassau.

The survivor said the trip was to be from Nassau, to Bimini and then to the US. The survivor identified Metellus, 33, as being in charge of the boat. The survivor says after leaving Nassau the vessel ran out of fuel and drifted for two to three days before someone brought them fuel.  They proceeded to a house in Bimini where the survivor and the others on board stayed for a night. The next night they took off for the United States.

Agents also interviewed Metellus. He at first denied involvement, but then identified a man as the person who hired him to help the smuggling operation. Metellus said he was living a difficult life in Haiti, where he has 7 children. Metellus told agents he chose to be paid with free passage on the boat to Miami. Metellus said he lost his Alien Card and travel documents during a hurricane in Haiti.

Previously: Twenty-eight people were left in the water 15 miles off the Boynton Beach Coast after their boat capsized. At least 10 people are now confirmed dead.

Exits along I-95 in the area from Boynton Beach to West Palm Beach are blocked as the Coast Guard moves up I-95. These exits may periodically open and close as the Coast Guard and rescue crews move command posts.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo says the Coast Guard recovered 13 people from the water Wednesday, and five of those people were being flown to a local hospital. Authorities were in the process of recovering the rest.

Palm Beach Fire and Rescue have also been called for assistance. All area hospitals have been put on high alert.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are trying to determine if there was any illegal activity going on.

Three or four people were located and picked up by a good Samaritan boat. The Coast Guard identified the people as Haitian and Bahamian migrants. Two helicopters, a jet and three boats were involved in the rescue.

The following is a statement just released from the Coast Guard:

MIAMI - The Coast Guard is responding to a report of up to 28 people from a capsized vessel in the water, 13 of whom have been recovered, about 15 miles east of Boynton Beach, Fla., Wednesday.

A good Samaritan contacted the Coast Guard around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday reporting there were numerous people in the water. 

The vessel reportedly sank around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Assisting in the search are:

-Two HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Miami
-An HU-25 Falcon jet crew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami
-A 33-foot Special Purpose Craft from Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet, Fla.
-A 41-foot Utility Boat crew from Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet
-The crew of the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant