A St. Thomas woman, who received serious head injuries in a crash after British Virgin Islands Customs officers intercepted and boarded a U.S.-registered boat carrying six U.S. Virgin Islands residents in BVI territorial waters, pleaded guilty to illegal entry charges and paid a $500 fine Friday, December 7.
Six young men and women from St. John and St. Thomas had been jailed overnight after several were treated for injuries in the aftermath of the Saturday night, December 1, incident in which BVI Customs officers were operating both boats involved in the collision, according to friends of the boaters.
Meaghan (Firestone) Richardson of St. Thomas received more than 100 stitches for head injuries suffered in the collision which occurred as the Customs boat and the private vessel were being taken by BVI Customs officers from Norman Island to the Road Town, Tortola, police station after the interdiction, according to one friend of the boaters.
No details of the collision were presented in their court appearance before Magistrate Valerie Stevens and all six pleaded guilty and were fined amounts up to $1,000 for illegal entry into the BVI, prosecutor Jefferson Knight told the V.I. Daily News.
While reports of the incident were passed around the St. John boating community during the week, the young USVI residents involved kept a low profile through the Friday court appearance and could not be reached for comment on their experience.
In an early-season exercise of the BVI’s increasingly more stringent enforcement of its territorial boundaries and regulations, BVI officials intercepted the powerboat as it was traveling towards a popular floating bar-restaurant anchored at Norman Island.
Boat captain Ryan Uszenski and passengers Brendan Day and Cyril Richardson each were fined $1,000, Kelly O’Brien and Benjamin Braddock each were fined $800 and Meaghan Richardson was fined $500, prosecutor Knight told the V.I. Daily News.
Previous clashes between BVI Customs officials and sport and recreational fishermen from the USVI in BVI territorial waters have been well-publicized for the boat confiscations, hefty fines and jail sentences imposed on the offenders.
In recent years a number of illegal immigrants have died during interdiction action by BVI Customs officials. Undocumented aliens who drowned in one collision at sea during an interdiction effort are buried in a common grave on Tortola.
The most recent action marks an increase in enforcement against USVI residents traveling to popular nautical gathering spots at BVI out-islands.