While announcing a multi-jurisdiction investigation as well as the activation of the territory’s Mass Fatality Plan, the locally-based Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) said more body parts have been recovered by authorities in the British Virgin Islands after a vessel capsized this month.
The RVIPF said it still does not know how many people were on the vessel or the whereabouts of the boat. But the US Coast Guard reported days ago that 15 people are still missing and four were rescued and turned over to British Virgin Islands authorities.
The RVIPF, in a media release last evening, disclosed that one of the four rescued persons remains in police custody.
“Four men were rescued by tourists in British Virgin Islands waters on July 13 and were questioned by Immigration. Three men have since been repatriated and one is in police custody,” said the RVIPF.
It added, “Body parts were recovered on Peter Island [in the British Virgin Islands] on Friday and are being processed by RVIPF and the BVIHSA. Additional body parts were also recovered on Monday afternoon. RVIPF has not located the capsized vessel and has not established clearly the number of persons aboard. Identification was recovered for five persons.”
Early last week, a number of persons contacted BVI News Online especially from Puerto Rico as they desperately tried to get information from British Virgin Islands police about their relatives and loved-ones involved in the tragedy.
They claimed that they were being kept in the dark by the British Virgin Islands authorities, and that the territory was not offering any assistance.
When BVI News Online contacted the RVIPF at the time, it repeatedly denied knowledge of any vessel capsizing.
It now appears there was a clear breakdown in communication between the different British Virgin Islands departments involved in the matter.
Mass Fatality Plan
The RVIPF, in elaborating on the Mass Fatality Plan that has been activated, stated that the move followed a meeting on Monday between local authorities, including the Department of Disaster Management.
The meeting was held to determine the next steps, which the RVIPF said will include further searches by the Territorial Search and Rescue Team, a multi-jurisdiction investigation, an established point of contact for family members, and the processing of any persons by Immigration or remains by the RVIPF and the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA).
The British Virgin Islands police further said: “Following the first report on July 13 of the capsized boat, the United States Coast Guard, RVIPF, the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard and the US Virgin Islands National Parks Authorities conducted searches for possible survivors up to Saturday, July 16.”
“Persons wanting information in relation to this incident can contact the Police Liaison Officer Constable Delma Tavanier-Perez through the RVIPF three digit local access number 311 or 1-284-494-3822,” added the British Virgin Islands police.
Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard previously reported that, according to one of the survivors, the migrant vessel had departed Saint Maarten the night of July 9, 2016 on a trip to St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
“The vessel was carrying 15 Cubans, one Colombian, a Dominican Republic national and two persons from Saint Maarten when it capsized after the vessel started taking on water,” added The US Coast Guard.
It also reported previously that two Saint Maarten and two Cuban migrants who were traveling aboard the capsized vessel were rescued by a Good Samaritan vessel in waters south of Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. They were transported to Virgin Gorda, where they were transferred to British Virgin Islands authorities.