A go-fast boat reportedly carrying a crew of four capsized on a Caribbean route used by drug traffickers and one survivor was found clinging to the boat's bow, which was jutting out of the water, U.S. authorities said Monday.
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter and two planes were searching for the three missing crew members in an area about 235 miles south of Jamaica, said Guard spokesman Lt. Matt Moorlag in Miami.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection plane located the capsized go-fast on its radar screen and a second plane was dispatched to investigate the "target of interest." The plane on Sunday found a man hugging the bow, a few feet out of the water, the agency said. The bow was the only part of the capsized boat still above water.
The survivor, who identified himself as a Nicaraguan, was taken aboard a merchant ship and has been uncooperative, Moorlag said. He told authorities his group had been fishing from their boat, Moorlag said.
Senior Special Agent Zachary Mann, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, cast doubt on the survivor's tale.
"It doesn't appear that they were out for a Sunday Father's Day boat ride. Most likely some suspicious activity was taking place," Mann said by telephone from Miami.
He said the go-fast capsized along one of the routes used by smugglers to transport cocaine from Colombia to Caribbean islands or Central America and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Moorlag said the Coast Guard would not send divers to inspect what was on board and would sink the boat because it poses a hazard to other vessels.
Crews of go-fasts, the equivalent of the rumrunners of the Prohibition era, are equipped with global positioning systems, satellite telephones and often use custom-made 800-horsepower fiberglass boats that can do 50 mph. The cocaine is generally loaded on board on Colombia's coast, offloaded in Central America or Mexico and then taken on land across the U.S. border.