Drug-Running Vessel to Become Underwater Memorial
Officials with Palm Beach County, Florida, have announced plans to dispose of a small cargo vessel seized for drug smuggling by turning it into an underwater memorial – an artificial reef, but also a site of remembrance for local boaters lost at sea.
When she is sunk on July 13, the 170-foot Ana Cecilia will bear plaques remembering Perry Cohen; Austin Stephanos; Fernandes Jones; Jaden Jones; and Willis Bell – all recreational boaters who lost their lives in watercraft accidents.
The Cecilia was confiscated last fall, when officers with Customs and Border Protection followed a man departing the vessel with two boxes, found to contain some 140 kilos of cocaine. A secret compartment aboard yielded nearly 280 kilos more, for a total of nearly half a ton – worth over $40 million. Her owner and captain was arrested and convicted on drug charges.
She will be thoroughly cleaned before the reefing, and the county says that it will film the event.
In 2012, before the drug-running enterprise that led to her confiscation, the Cecilia gained attention as the first U.S. vessel to carry humanitarian aid between Miami and Havana in five decades. However, the enterprise only lasted a year, as engine troubles and slow shoreside deliveries in Cuba hampered her operations.
The Customs and Border Protection recently completed its largest cocaine bust of the decade on the Miami River in a search of the general cargo vessel Lisanne; the agency has not yet indicated whether she might also be transferred to the county for reefing.
Video of the sinking of the Pocahontas (or Danny), the last vessel reefed by Palm Beach County: