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USVI Authorities Joins in the Search of Missing Woman at Sea- Helicopters and Drones Assisting in the Search

Authorities from the United States Virgin Islands are currently assisting in the search and rescue of a mother who is missing at sea following a boating accident off the West End area of Tortola yesterday evening.

This was confirmed by the Operations Manager of the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR), Phil Aspinall, who said a helicopter from St. Thomas is on the scene while other marine assistance is being provided from the neighbouring St. John.

He said, “Because of the proximity to the US Virgin Islands, it has been offered, St. John’s Rescue Service, it’s a volunteer organisation pretty much like VISAR, they are going out there with their boats to help us. The US Coast Guard service assets from Charlotte Amalie are on standby to go and working out the logistics of doing that.”

“Currently, there’s a US helicopter on scene overhead conducting searches, and then my vessel with two drones, two commercial salvage vessels with divers, and numerous concerned citizens and family members. So a lot of activity out there looking,” he added.

Lots of effort into the search

Aspinall also spoke on the efforts executed so far by VISAR, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, residents, and other businesses.

“We searched up until around midnight last night. Family members stayed out there, we came home to regroup, get some sleep and then go back out again at first light this morning. The marine police are out there as well from 6:30 this morning. I’d say we’ve got updated information this morning onto where the scene actually happened, and I can confirm that we think we found the vessel on the seabed. We’re just about to launch divers and to check to see if that is the suspected vessel,” he expressed.

What initially occurred?

The operations manager provided information on the initial reports of the incident, which he reckoned occurred just after 7 o’clock in the evening.

He said, “We were called around 7:15 pm. A gentleman said that he witnessed something happening around 7 pm. Lot of boats went out to the scene, he assumed that it was under control, and then by watching what was happening, it was evident it was getting a bit out of control, so that is when he called us.”

“So we were launched at 7:15 last night and have been there since essentially. The accident, the boat was coming from Jost Van Dyke was cutting through there between Steele Point and Great Thatch and in between Frenchman’s Cay and Little Thatch, and the accident happened between Frenchman’s Cay and Little Thatch on their way out to go up to Road Town I presume,” he further explained.

Accident only involved one vessel

Aspinall also revealed what he suspected led to the accident based on the information provided by very reliable sources.

“We don’t know the circumstances. We believe it was only one vessel involved. They were driving normal, then appeared to lift out the water and then fall back on its tail. Again, it happened very quickly, so a little difficult to assess, but from what we can establish, only one boat was involved, he stated.

8 persons on board and 7 rescued

Aspinall said reports indicate that 8 persons were on board the vessel at the time of the accident, with 7 being taken to shore and to the Dr. D Orlando Smith Hospital with varying injuries.

Three of the passengers were said to be minors, with the remaining five adults.

Reports from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force this morning confirmed that a 6-year-old girl succumbed to the injuries she sustained during the accident on Sunday.

More to come on this developing story.

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