PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands – A boat was found about a mile off Grand Turk Island with 20 dead on board, including two children, authorities in the Turks and Caicos Islands said on Sunday.
Officials said investigators ruled out foul play but were still trying to find out what happened. The identity and origin of the dead were also examined.
Fishermen spotted the small boat Thursday morning and alerted the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force’s naval division, which was towing the ship ashore.
Police communications officer Takara Bain said in a press release that investigators had ruled out foul play and were looking for other options without giving details.
Police Commissioner Trevor Botting said the boat appeared to have come from outside the Caribbean and authorities did not believe it was targeting the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“My investigators are working to find out their identity and how they experienced their death,” said Botting.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are often a magnet for desperate Haitians who want to flee this impoverished nation, and the area has also been used as a transshipment point by human traffickers.
In June 2020, Sri Lankan-born Canadian national Srikajamukam Chelliah pleaded guilty to human trafficking in front of a judge from the Turks and Caicos Islands and was sentenced to 14 months in prison. He was extradited to Florida and sentenced to 32 months in prison from February 24 for conspiracy to smuggle people into the United States.
Chelliah was caught skippering a boat with 158 people, including 28 Sri Lankans, in August 2019. They told investigators that they were going to the United States.