Friday, April 20, 2018

6 charged in boat capsizing that killed 4

MIAMI — The operator of a boat that capsized off Miami, killing four women, faces federal involuntary manslaughter charges, and five others — from the Bahamas and Jamaica — also were indicted in the case.

The boat carrying Bahamians, Jamaicans and Haitians overturned 7 miles east of Miami. The 11 survivors were found clinging to the hull the morning of Oct. 17.

The 24-count indictment Thursday charges 53-year-old Naaman Davis and 38-year-old George Lewis, both of the Bahamas, with encouraging and inducing aliens to enter the United States resulting in death. Boat operator Davis is also charged with involuntary manslaughter. Davis and Lewis face possible death sentences.

Lewis and three Jamaicans on board — Matthew Williams, 30; Everton Jones, 40; and Kenard Hagigal, 35 — were charged with illegal re-entry into the United States by an aggravated felon. A fourth Jamaican passenger, 37-year-old Sean Gaynor, was charged with illegal re-entry into the United States. All face years in prison.

The other five survivors — four Haitians and one Bahamian — are considered witnesses in the criminal investigation, according to the indictment released by the U.S. Attorney's Office. There were no lawyers listed for the suspects in the document.

The four Haitian survivors have been released from federal custody and could be eligible for work visas in the U.S. It wasn't clear whether the Bahamian was still being held.

Of the four women who died, three have been identified as Haitian. Their names were reported as Lodilia Escarment, Carmen Valeris and Woodline Alexis. The fourth woman hasn't been identified.

Since a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the U.S. has not been deporting Haitians who do not have criminal records.

The four survivors are witnesses in a criminal case, and their cooperation with law enforcement likely makes them eligible for visas that would allow them to work, said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Miami-based advocacy center Americans for Immigrant Justice.

Thousands of migrants from Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries attempt to illegally enter the U.S. each year by attempting risky sea voyages in overloaded or unseaworthy vessels, often through established smuggling networks that include islands in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

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