‘Makeshift raft’ washes ashore on Singer Island, police say

Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 2:50 PM EDT
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Customs and border officials are investigating after Riviera Beach police said a “makeshift raft” washed ashore on Singer Island on Friday morning.

Capt. Nathan Gordon said Riviera Beach police officers responded to the 5500 block of North Ocean Drive around 7 a.m. and found the raft on the beach.

Police said the raft was made of 20 drums, each 55 gallons, that were tied together.

Gordon said the case was turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which said the raft is related to a recent interdiction at sea…

Coffee and sunrises go hand-in-hand for Gabriela Mendez.

"It was a bit dark, but I could see something on the beach there," Mendez said.

Grabbing her binoculars to get a better view, Mendez said she saw a raft on the beach.

"My first thought was, maybe there is someone there who needs help," Mendez said.

Flipped upside-down, the raft was empty. Mendez saw three life jackets, a sign that multiple people may have traveled in it.

"They look handmade. They look like two pieces of Styrofoam covered in plastic and the plastic is handstitched," Mendez said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said, most commonly, Coast Guard cutters interdict migrants at sea and bring them aboard.

The agency said if the vessel is not a hazard to navigation or a pollution threat, it is considered marine debris and left to wash ashore.

The vessels are are logged and spray painted with the letters "OK," markings that were not apparent on this raft. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the rustic vessel is related to a recent interdiction.

"Obviously, we prefer legal immigration, but when people are fleeing for their lives from some horrible thing, my view is there is not any wall that will stop them from coming," said Brian Milidrag.

Milidrag heard about the raft during his morning walk.

"Probably could have fit 50 on that boat," Milidrag said.

The latest U.S. Coast Guard bulletin from last week said 32 Cubans were repatriated to Cuba following two interdictions at sea. The Coast Guard is looking into which interdiction is connected to the raft.

Mendez said her neighbors told her this happens, and her thoughts are with those who attempted to make the journey.

"I'm thinking how desperate people have to be in order to get in such huge ocean in such a small boat," Mendez said.

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