Packed Haitian Boat Missing Hundreds Feared Drowned On Trip To Florida

THURSDAY, NOV. 21, 1996

At least 290 people who set out clandestinely in a leaky sailboat with hopes of a better life in Florida are missing and feared drowned.

“I can’t believe God is so hard-hearted that he would let my whole family perish,” Natasha Chery, 35, said Wednesday in Petit-Goave, 40 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Chery has not heard from dozens of relatives, including her brother and sister, since they sailed from nearby Trou Chou-Chou on Nov. 3 aboard “L’Ange Gabriel,” the Angel Gabriel, a 63-foot motorized wooden sailboat.

With 290 passengers aboard, the boat stopped at Gonave Island in Port-au-Prince Bay, and may have taken on more passengers before leaving for Miami two days later. “The boat was already leaking. They left without repairing it. It was windy and rainy,” Maxo Dibi, 21, said he was told by friends on Gonave Island.

Dibi’s younger brother, a cousin and his stepmother were on the boat.

“Misery drove them to the sea. The country is hungry,” Dibi said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday that it had no information on the whereabouts of the boat, though Coast Guard officers closely monitor traffic from Haiti to prevent such desperate voyages, often on unseaworthy and overcrowded boats.

Such trips usually take up to a week and, on arrival, Haitians normally contact relatives in Florida.

Tags: refugee

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