Boat capsizes, kills 18 Haitian refugees

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MIAMI -- At least 18 migrants from Haiti died Wednesday when their overloaded sailboat capsized as it was being towed to shore in the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials in the British territory said.

A marine unit of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force had intercepted the packed sloop about two hours earlier and was escorting it to shore when it abruptly overturned.

Karlo Pelissier, the Haitian consul to the Turks and Caicos, said he was told by survivors that several migrants attempted to jump off the 28-foot boat and flee to land as they neared the island of Providenciales.

and that the surge caused the overloaded sloop to overturn. Officials had not confirmed that as the cause of the capsizing.

Authorities rescued 32 migrants, including one 12-year-old boy, and recovered the bodies of 18 people. Divers and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters assisted in a search for additional survivors or victims. The area where the incident occurred is in clear water about 150 yards (meters) from shore and the death toll was not expected to increase significantly, said Neil Smith a government spokesman.

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