POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — A motorboat with migrants aboard crashed into a seawall Thursday as police chased it on the Intracoastal Waterway in Pompano Beach. More than 14 people were arrested.
Some jumped into the water before local and federal authorities arrested all of them, the latest of an increasing number of migrants trying to cross the sea.
The crash happened in the area of Southeast 28th Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard about 8:45 a.m. Thursday, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities did not provide the country of origin for those detained. One of the migrants told WPLG-TV that they were fleeing violence in Jamaica. They will be transferred to the custody of Customs and Border Protection, officials said.
The boat crashed as a law enforcement boat sped through the water with a police helicopter circling overhead, a video from a witness shows.
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” one nearby person shouts on the video, provided to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Did you see that? This is some ‘Grand Theft Auto’ (expletive) right here.”
Witness Gregory Krupa said he was sitting at the pier when the boat sped by. “A sheriff boat came out real quick, (and the other boat) crash-landed ... into the wall,” he said. “About three or four people jumped in the water.”
One woman on the boat gave up and put her hands on her head, he said.
Early estimates showed this year to be busy for attempted migrant crossings. As of February, at-sea interceptions had already outpaced all of 2020 for people immigrating just from Cuba, the most recent available data shows.
With 1,200 miles of coastline used by thousands of commercial and recreational boaters, Florida is ripe for smuggling undocumented people to the states by boat or for others to try to make it ashore with makeshift boats.
Over the past five years, about 15,000 migrants have been caught and stopped at sea by the Coast Guard District 7 group, which covers the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coastline, as well as the Caribbean basin, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
But the trek involves a number of dangers, including intense storms, especially during hurricane season, and crashes that leave people stranded.
Earlier this year, three migrants from Cuba survived on coconuts for 33 days on an island near the Bahamas after their boat crashed.