A large vessel containing a number of Haitian migrants landed just off Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo on Saturday evening. JASON RAFTER/FWC

A sailboat with more than 300 Haitian men, women and children grounded near North Key Largo’s Ocean Reef Club on Aug. 6.

A total of 113 migrants hopped off the vessel and made it to land at the exclusive Ocean Reef Club. But 220 migrants remained on the boat. A swift rescue ensued by the U.S. Coast Guard as many migrants were in the water without life jackets. 

Migrants making it to land were in U.S Customs & Border Patrol’s custody. They received water and towels as they sat inside Ocean Reef Club. U.S Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar said two migrants were taken to a local hospital for dehydration. Slosar said agents worked to identify the migrants and what they may have brought with them.

Migrants will be interviewed and processed for removal proceedings, CBP says. 

“This is a national security mission,” he said. “We are working with our local law enforcement partners and our local community in order to transfer them into our custody and into the immigration process as we move through this. This is an ongoing investigation and we are working to identify the smugglers who crammed these people onto the vessel.”

Haitian migrants aboard an overloaded vessel are rescued by U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. COAST GUARD SOUTHEAST/Via Twitter

The remaining 220 migrants on the vessel were safely transferred to a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. 

Joining the Coast Guard and Border Patrol on scene were Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation. Miami-Dade Police and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Earlier in March, some 356 Haitian migrants landed off Ocean Reef Club after a large wooden sailboat grounded. A total of 158 Haitian migrants jumped off a grounded boat, swimming to shore at Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo that March afternoon. But 198 more remained on the boat as various agencies responded to the suspected human smuggling event.

According to CBP, agents and local law enforcement responded to 16 migrant landings in the Florida Keys in a two-day period last weekend. A total of 263 were taken into CBP custody. All events involved a makeshift, overloaded vessel.

“We urge migrants to avoid these dangerous voyages that can potentially result in loss of life,” Slosar said.

A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation vessel approaches a large boat with Haitian migrants. JASON RAFTER/FWC
Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.