MIAMI - Six people face federal charges after four women died when a boat carrying Bahamians, Jamaicans and Haitians capsized off Miami. The boat operator, from the Bahamas, faces a possible death sentence.
The 11 survivors were found clinging to the hull the morning of Oct. 17.
The 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. Both men 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 prison sentences.
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. The four Haitians have been released from federal custody. It wasn't clear whether the Bahamian was still being held.
Since a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the U.S. has not been deporting Haitians who do not have criminal records. The witnesses' co-operation 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 centre Americans for Immigrant Justice.
Of the four women who died, three have been identified as Haitian. The fourth woman hasn't been identified.
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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