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Boat carrying 300 Haitian migrants lands in the Florida Keys in 'smuggling event,' officials say

Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar said some 163 migrants swam to shore and many were in need of medical attention.

A vessel believed to be carrying about 300 Haitian migrants landed in the Florida Keys area over the weekend in what officials are calling a smuggling operation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection told NBC News in a statement that the agency, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement, "responded to a maritime smuggling event that made landfall in Ocean Reef, Florida," on Sunday.

The investigation is ongoing, according to the statement.

Multiple agencies responded to a call of a wooden vessel carrying more than 300 Haitian migrants in the shallow waters off Ocean Reef Club in north Key Largo on March 6, 2022, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
Multiple agencies responded to a call of a wooden vessel carrying more than 300 Haitian migrants in the shallow waters off Ocean Reef Club in north Key Largo on March 6, 2022, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.@USBPChiefMIP via Twitter / https://twitter.com/USBPChiefMIP/status/1500621824840904709

Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar said on Twitter that approximately 300 migrants were overloaded onto a wooden vessel, and 163 of them ended up swimming to shore. 

Haitian migrants
Authorities say the sail freighter came aground 300 yards from shore.@USBPChiefMIP via Twitter

He shared a photo showing migrants wrapped in towels on the shore, noting that many were “in need of medical attention.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Southeast also shared photos and footage of the incident, saying it was helping coordinate on-shore rescues Sunday.

“Initial reports show the people involved in this suspected smuggling venture are Haitian,” the agency added.

“Multiple agencies responded quickly & worked closely to protect a lot of lives today,” Lt. Cmdr. Jason Neiman of Coast Guard District Seven said in a statement on Twitter.

The Coast Guard said "the situation is still evolving."