San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Authorities Investigate Ill-fated Boat Passengers

The 20 passengers aboard a small boat that sank Tuesday in Barra de Tortuguero, on the northern Caribbean coast, were taken to San José yesterday to be held in a detention center while officials investigate their immigration status, the Public Security Ministry said in a statement.

They include 16 men and four women, 10 of whom are from Hong Kong, two from Ecuador, four from Colombia and four from the Dominican Republic, according to the statement.

The boat, which sank under a strong tide and washed ashore at Tortuguero, departed from San Andrés, an island off the east coast of Nicaragua that belongs to Colombia.

The passengers, who were treated by Coast Guard workers for dehydration after being discovered, have given authorities conflicting information about where the small, two-engine boat was headed and the purpose of the trip.

While some passengers said they left San Andrés to visit the nearby island of Calle Bolivar, which also belongs to Colombia, others said they were headed for Nicaragua.

The Public Security Ministry is investigating the possibility that the group was on an illegal voyage to the United States. The 28-foot boat had no registration papers.

The passengers will be flown back to their countries of origin in the next few days, the statement said.


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