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U.S. Coast Guard searching for 39 missing people off Fort Pierce

U.S. Coast Guard
A U.S. Coast Guard HH-65C Dolphin helicopter flies along the beach, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 in Hallandale Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A boater lending aid to a man he found clinging to an overturned vessel 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet spurred a widespread search by the United States Coast Guard for 39 missing souls on Thursday.

The survivor related to Coast Guard rescuers that he had left Bimini in the Bahamas with 39 others on Saturday night and rough weather on the journey caused the boat to capsize. He reported that no one aboard the boat was wearing a life vest. An air and sea search is underway in the waters off Fort Pierce. Coast Guard officials believe the boat and its passengers were related to a “human smuggling venture.”

Approximate search area