PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos - The handmade wooden sailboat, weighed down with about 200 Haitians fleeing poverty, tried to maneuver through the treacherous coral reefs when it was struck by heavy swells. It had no chance.
"The waves broke the boat apart," said Samuel Been, minister of public safety for the Turks and Caicos Islands. "It was frightening."
Tossed into the water, some managed to swim two miles to shore, while others clung to wreckage or the razor-sharp reef. At least 15 drowned.
Rescuers searched by sea and air Tuesday for nearly 70 more believed missing after the overloaded sailboat ran aground and splintered near the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The boat was carrying an estimated 200 men, women and teenagers when it struck the reef near West Caicos, part of an archipelago that has proven to be deadly for Haitians trying to escape their homeland in rickety vessels.