Subj: Eight feared dead as freighter disappears off Florida
Date: 12/25/00 8:32:04 PM Pacific Standard Time
To: (Newmill)

Eight feared dead as freighter disappears off Florida

December 25, 2000
1:18 PM EST (1818 GMT)

MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) -- All eight crew members on a cargo vessel
sailing from Miami to Haiti were missing and feared dead on Monday two
days after their freighter disappeared in stormy waters off Florida, the
U.S. Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard suspended its air and sea search for the 163-foot
freighter Anita on Monday after finding only two empty life rafts and
some debris in the area where the vessel went down on Saturday night,
Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Robert Suddarth told Reuters.

"We honestly don't know what happened," Suddarth said, adding that the
seas were rough at the time, with winds of 30 knots and 12-foot swells,
but such conditions would not normally be disastrous for a safe,
well-loaded vessel.

He said the Belize-registered Anita had set out from Miami on Saturday
morning bound for Haiti. The captain was reportedly a U.S. citizen. The
president of Rigal Ships Agency, which contracted the vessel, told the
Miami Herald that the crew were mostly from Nicaragua and the Dominican

"The freighter was carrying dry goods such as rice, cooking oil and
cars," said Fredy Alvarado. "I also believe that one more person was
added to the crew at the last moment," he told the newspaper, suggesting
there may have been nine people on board.

The Coast Guard said it received an electronic distress signal from the
vessel on Saturday evening and immediately sent aircraft to the area, 45
miles south east of Miami. A Coast Guard cutter later joined the search
and an empty life raft and some debris was found on Saturday night.

Further searching over a wide area during Sunday yielded only another
empty life raft, an oil slick and some more debris, Suddarth said.