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    How a Coast Guard Plane Scoured Islands Looking for Migrants — And What the Crew Found

    How a Coast Guard Plane Scoured Islands Looking for Migrants — And What the Crew Found

    CAY SAL BANK, Bahamas — High above a remote uninhabited Bahamian island, a U..S. Coast Guard crew on patrol watches as a man and small child fish from a white-sand beach. A twin-outboard engine cabin cruiser is anchored in a cove just a few feet from shore.

    Using cameras mounted on the C-144 Ocean Sentry, pilots and radar operators watch from about 1,500 feet as the two stand on the sand, rod and reel in hand, waiting for a fish to bite. Then the man and child notice the plane circling above. They drop their fishing gear and run toward trees.

    “It's very peculiar,” Lt. Spencer Zwenger says as he pilots the plane and watches what's happening on the beach below.

    The pilot positions the plane — a twin-engine turbo prop that the Coast Guard uses for search and rescue and law enforcement patrols — at a different angle, and the cameras catch more people hiding beneath a tropical tree canopy.

    “Oh, there's more than two people,” Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Mitcheltree says from the right seat of the cockpit, after spotting the others gathered in the tree line.
    The people below are likely migrants that, for unknown reasons, stopped at Cay Sal Bank, an arrow-shaped atoll located about 30 miles from the northern coast of , on their way to South Florida. The Coast Guard crew above was on a routine patrol mission on Jan. 14.

    The boat, a factory-built pleasure craft and not a makeshift migrant vessel, also indicates to…

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