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1 dead after boat rams Coast Guard vessel

The Coast Guard intercepts the boat containing 31 Cubans and three smugglers off the Florida Keys.

Published July 9, 2006

MIAMI - A woman died and four others were injured early Saturday after an overloaded go-fast boat repeatedly rammed a Coast Guard vessel off the Florida Keys, authorities said.

The Coast Guard attempted to intercept the 36-foot go-fast boat with 31 Cubans and three smugglers aboard around 6:30 a.m., Coast Guard Petty Officer James Judge said.

The boat ignored orders to stop about 40 miles south of Key West and rammed into the Coast Guard vessel more than five times, Judge said. Coast Guard officials then fired two shots into the vessel's engine to disable it, he said.

"The boat was bouncing all over the place. The seas were pretty rough and they actually rammed the Coast Guard boat," Judge said.

One woman suffered a head injury and severe bruising to the face. She lost consciousness as she received medical attention and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 8:34 am., Judge said.

An autopsy was scheduled Sunday, said Dr. Michael Hunter at the Key West Medical Examiner's Office.

A pregnant woman aboard the go-fast boat was hospitalized, though her condition was not immediately known. Three men were treated for minor injuries aboard the Coast Guard vessel, Judge said.

"The boat was severely overloaded," Judge said. "All those add up for dangerous possibilities."

The remaining migrants were still aboard the Coast Guard cutter and will be processed as usual, he said. Under the United States' "wet foot/ dry foot" policy, most Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea are generally sent home.

Authorities detained the three smugglers.

"Smugglers often treat migrants as if they were human cargo, with blatant disregard for individual life and safety. This must stop," U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said in a statement.

"The United States Attorney's Office is determined to use all prosecutorial tools at our disposal to investigate and prosecute these smuggling incidents."

[Last modified July 9, 2006, 02:02:43]

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