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Four charged in connection to Haitian smuggling boat tragedy

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NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) – Four men who have been charged in connection with last week’s human smuggling boat tragedy in which 17 Haitians lost their lives, appeared in court in the Bahamas on Friday.

Donald Watson, 39, McKenzie Jerome, 53, Eland McKinney, 49 and WiIlbens Joseph, 37, were charged with 18 counts of manslaughter, which included the unborn child of one of the women aboard the vessel.

Watson and McKinney were also charged with reckless operation of a craft and for not having a boater’s license.

In court, the four were not required to enter a plea and were denied bail.

They will return to court on October 28 for service of a voluntary bill of indictment.

Meanwhile, it’s reported that the government of Haiti has committed to covering the burial costs of those who died at sea.

Speaking with the Tribune newspaper, activist Louby Georges, revealed that directives were given to officials at the Haitian Embassy to notify the Bahamian government of the issue.

“What I can confirm and what I also understand is that the Haitian government, the central government in Haiti, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has announced or given directive to the embassy here (in The Bahamas) and they have decided that they are willing to foot the bill for the funeral costs for everyone,” the Tribune reported.

“Well, families of course may claim their loved one’s bodies and they will decide how they want to go about with the funeral services and everything but for those that are not claimed, definitely the Haitian government has decided that they will pay for the funeral costs so there won’t be any burden on the Bahamian government.”

During a press conference earlier this week, Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander, urged family members of deceased victims from Sunday’s boating tragedy to come forward to assist with the identification process.

Police said some 50 people were travelling on a 33-foot twin engine vessel when it overturned in rough seas near Blackbeard’s Cay around 1:00 am on Sunday.

Officers suspect the boat was travelling to Miami as a part of a human smuggling operation.

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