FORT PIERCE — Twenty five people law enforcement authorities described as Creole-speaking immigrants, were turned over to federal officials after a boat hit a dock Thursday off Seaway Drive, according to Fort Pierce police and the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.
At 5:27 p.m. Thursday, police, sheriff’s deputies and St. Lucie County Fire District officials went to an address in the 400 block of Seaway Drive regarding “immigrants fleeing a vessel,” police said.
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A person saw the boat, identified as the Cross Star, hit a dock and saw “a group of Creole-speaking immigrants exiting in haste,” police stated. Those on the boat included men, women and children.
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Police Acting Lt. Cassandra Davis said Friday the individuals are believed to be of Haitian descent. Police suspect they entered the country illegally, but federal authorities have assumed control of the investigation.
St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Brian Hester said the boat wound up grounding itself against a dock.
Several deputies were working an off-duty detail across the street at a marina.
A deputy “did observe some people scurrying away and was able to basically detain four individuals immediately.”
Hester said 25 people wound up being detained, three of which were children. All appeared to be of Haitian descent and spoke Creole.
“One of them made just a statement … that they, she, was from Haiti, and that she was coming to America for a better life,” Hester said.
He said entering the country illegally is a federal, as opposed to a state, crime, and the Sheriff’s Office in such cases typically immediately notifies federal authorities.
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He said they don’t know the identity of the boat captain, noting it could have been one taken into custody, though that will be something for federal officials to investigate.
He said those detained were given water and food. Eventually, 23 people were taken to Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital in Port St. Lucie and two to HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce.