PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Coast Guard law-enforcement crews interdicted a go-fast vesselcarrying 2,300 pounds of cocaine about 20 miles off the coast ofPanama Tuesday morning.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bear spotted a loaded go-fastvessel Tuesday around 5 a.m. while on a routine law-enforcementpatrol in the Caribbean Sea.
An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from the HelicopterInterdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla., embarked withthe cutter Bear, was launched and used warning shots and thendisabling fire to bring the vessel to a halt after the go-fast crewfailed to comply with orders to stop. The suspected drug smugglersjettisoned their contraband, set fire to their vessel and thenjumped overboard. All four suspected smugglers were rescued by theCoast Guard. One of the suspected smugglers suffered minor burnswhen they scuttled the vessel. A law-enforcement crew from the Bearrecovered 46 bales that tested positive for cocaine and detainedthe four suspects. The go-fast vessel sank.
"Drug traffickers often endanger themselves and law-enforcementofficers when they attempt to destroy evidence of their illicitactivities," said Capt. Steven Banks, Seventh Coast Guard Districtchief of enforcement. "The cutter Bear's crew saved the lives ofthese four suspected smugglers who showed blatant disregard fortheir own safety and the safety of others."
The four detainees and 46 bales of cocaine were turned over toPanamanian officials.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bear is a 270-foot medium-endurancecutter homeported in Portsmouth, Va.
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