Charleston, S.C. - A joint team of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Coast Guard officers were mobilized Saturday to investigate a report of stowaways onboard the M/V MSC Debra. The vessel departed the Dominican Republic on June 9, and arrived in Charleston at noon today. CBP was notified that during unloading operations, dock workers identified several individuals absconding from a container.
One individual was captured and detained by crewmembers on board the vessel and another subject jumped into the water and was later apprehended by local marine law enforcement. A third individual was discovered in a container and pronounced dead by local emergency services and the county coroner.
During a search of the container, a hole was discovered in the top of the structure allowing entry and exit from the container. The search was conducted by CBP and USCG. State Port Authority Police provided assistance in securing the vessel and terminal facility.
"This type of incident is a clear indication of the risks people are willing to take to illegally enter the United States," said Robert A. Fencel, area port director in Charleston. "While the loss of life is truly regrettable, the joint efforts of local, state and federal agencies helped bring this incident to a successful conclusion while ensuring the safety of both the maritime industry and the community."
Based on the subsequent interviews and examination of the container and vessel, DHS officials and other law enforcement stakeholders determined that there were no additional stowaways.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.