Investigators believe there is only one known survivor of a group of 40 migrants whose boat capsized over the weekend near the coast of Florida.
The U.S. Coast Guard said at least one person is dead, and 38 are missing, in what’s being investigated as a human smuggling operation.
A woman — who’s only being identified as Marcia — spoke exclusively to NBC 6’s sister station Telemundo 51 on Wednesday, and said the lone survivor is her son.
She said her son was traveling with her daughter as well.
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“I tell him, 'tell me about your sister, please tell me about your sister, where is she? Where do I look for her? Tell me about my daughter,'" said Marcia in Spanish.
CAPSIZED BOAT OFF FLORIDA
“And he told me: ‘Mom my sister died, my sister drowned, I looked for her and I couldn't find her. I called her and called her and my sister couldn't stand it.’ It was the only thing he told me,” said Marcia.
The 25-foot boat capsized during a storm Saturday night about 45 miles from Florida, shortly after setting sail from the Bahamas.
The man, whose identity and nationality are not being revealed at the request of his family, said no one was wearing a life jacket.
“What did he do? He clung to what was left of the boat, as seen in the photo. He clung, he clung, and a lot of prayers,” Marcia said.
Homeland Security said they’ve opened a criminal investigation, with the case being investigated as a human smuggling operation.
The Coast Guard was continuing their massive search for survivors on Thursday.
As far as what's next for the man who was rescued, and any other possible survivors, immigration attorney Claudia Canizares said that's in the hands of Homeland Security.
"They may be processed as witnesses to cooperate with the investigation of the crime,” said Canizares. “Or they may be processed as illegal aliens who are coming into the country illegally."
Marcia’s begging for her son to be released.
“That they understand this situation, that they understand a mother who is devastated, discarded, for having lost her daughter, and is at this moment with her son still in immigration custody,” said Marcia.
Homeland Security is asking anyone with information in this case to call their tipline at 866-347-2423.