Rescue crews on more than a dozen boats and aircraft searching an area the size of Massachusetts have recovered five bodies after a capsized boat and one survivor were discovered 40 miles off the Florida coast.
The small vessel carrying 40 migrants was on its way from Bimini, a cluster of islands in the Bahamas, the survivor told the Coast Guard.
Homeland Security is investigating the "suspected human smuggling venture" that led to the "doomed venture," special agent Anthony Salisbury said at a Thursday press briefing.
At sunset Thursday, Coast Guard rescue crews will "suspend actively searching" for additional bodies, Coast Guard Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian said Thursday.
Here are other key moments in the fatal journey and rescue efforts:
Saturday, Jan. 22
A group of 40 migrants in a boat depart from Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night.
The survivor said no one was wearing life jackets.
That same night the group encountered rough weather.
#UPDATE @USCG crews are still searching. The good Sam notified #USCG Sector #Miami watchstanders, Tuesday, at approx. 8 a.m. after rescuing a man on a capsized vessel. Multiple cutters & aircraft are searching from #Bimini, #Bahamas to #FortPierce Inlet.
More updates follow. pic.twitter.com/kCVQ4LCaTe
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) January 25, 2022
Sunday, Jan. 23-Monday, Jan. 24
A cold front late Saturday into Sunday and Monday brought turbulent weather to the Bimini area. Tommy Sewell, a local bonefishing guide, told the Associated Press there were 20-mph winds and fierce squalls of rain.
The survivor said the boat capsized in severe weather.
Tuesday, Jan. 25
At 8 a.m. Tuesday, the Signet Intruder, a boat towing container barges from Puerto Rico to Jacksonville, Fla., discovered a man clinging to the overturned hull of the 25-foot migrants' boat.
“They spotted something drifting in the water but were too far away to see what it was," Signet Maritime Corporation fleet operations manager Joshua Nelson told USA TODAY. "So they came in closer and once they saw him they all got excited to help him on board and make sure he was OK."
Nelson said it was "all hands on deck" to carefully maneuver the large vessel close to the capsized ship without knocking the survivor off.
The Signet Intruder crew gave the survivor medical attention, water and electrolytes, according to Nelson.
After the survivor told them what happened to his party over the past two days, the crew "realized the gravity of the situation," Nelson said.
The Coast Guard started its own search for more survivors at 8:20 a.m. Tuesday.
Wednesday, Jan. 26
The Coast Guard recovered one body, Burdian said at a press briefing Wednesday morning.
“We are using every piece of information we can to make sure we are exhausting our search efforts,” Burdian said. “But we can’t search forever.”
Thursday, Jan. 27
Thursday afternoon, Coast Guard officials said their search recovered four additional bodies.
“To the best of our knowledge they’ve been in the water since Saturday evening," Burdian said.
At sunset Thursday, the Coast Guard will "suspend actively searching" unless it gets more information about where it should be searching.
The Coast Guard's decision to suspect the current search "does mean that we don’t think it’s likely that anyone else has survived," Burdian said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Journey from Bimini to Florida turns deadly when migrant boat capsizes