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Fla. anglers fish human head out of Atlantic

Coast Guard, FBI investigating connection to missing Cuban migrants staff ? Aug. 27, 2002

FORT PIERCE, Fla. ? A Fort Pierce man out fishing with his son and a friend made a gruesome discovery in the waters of the Atlantic ? a human head.

Paul Trabulsy found the dismembered body part Friday, Aug. 23, about 22 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet.

The men used a gaff to fish the head out of the water and placed it in a garbage bag. Then they kept right on fishing.

? We didn't want to come in right away, so we just put it in a bag in a bucket. It'd been out there awhile. What's a couple of hours? ?
? Paul Trabulsy

"We didn't want to come in right away, so we just put it in a bag in a bucket. It'd been out there awhile. What's a couple of hours?" said Trabulsy, 41, a certified public accountant.

The men docked and reported their discovery to the authorities about five hours later.

Trabulsy revealed to by phone Tuesday that he's received several "what we're you thinking" comments from friends and acquaintances in regard to the anglers' decision to keep on fishing after discovering the head.

"We were 22 miles out, so we decided we could either run in and ruin a perfectly good day or we could fish our way in," Trabulsy said. "It didn't bother us. I was fishing with my son, who works at a funeral home here, and a friend, who was a medic in the Army."

"Now, had it been a freshly severed head, it would have been a different story," said Trabulsy, noting he would have motored in quickly in that case. "But this had been out there for who knows how long."

The trio had been catching kingfish off a reef and thought they would try their luck on dolphin, also known as dorado or mahi mahi, farther out. They were prepared to cast near a spot where seabirds were congregated when they spotted the bald head of a man, Trabulsy said.

"I've been fishing here since I was a little kid," he said, "and I never found anything like that. It was bizarre."

Federal and local authorities are investigating the origin of the head, as well as other human remains and a body found miles apart in the waters off Florida's east coast, officials said.

? I've been fishing here since I was a little kid, and I never found anything like that. It was bizarre. ?
? Paul Trabulsy

Coast Guard authorities say they are investigating the remains of four separate individuals.

Medical examiners in Brevard and Martin counties took possession of the remains in an effort to identify them.

"We have no way to correlate right now where these remains may have come from," said Anthony Russell, spokesperson for the U.S Coast Guard in Miami. "We have multiple search and rescue cases every day."

A body found intact Saturday, Aug. 24, in the waters off Fort Pierce was tentatively identified Monday by clothing as that of a female Cuban migrant missing from an overdue 24-foot boat suspected of illegal migrant smuggling, Coast Guard officials said. The vessel was reported overdue Thursday, Aug. 22, four days after it was to return to the United States from a smuggling trip to Cuba, according to a Coast Guard release.

In the past, similar illegal migrant smuggling voyages have ended in tragedy. In November 2001, for example, a smuggler vessel capsized en route to the United States with the loss of 29 lives, including 12 small children, the release noted.

However, the Coast Guard suspended its search for the overdue migrant smuggling boat at 6:47 p.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 25.

According to families of the missing migrants, the vessel had departed Key West, Fla., on Aug. 17 for the purpose of picking up migrants from Cuba and was last heard from around midnight on Aug. 18, the Coast Guard reports. However, the Coast Guard was not notified that the vessel was missing for another four days, complicating its search plans.

"A delay in reporting like this makes the search effort much more difficult," Russell said. "Every hour of delay significantly increases the size of the likely search area and decreases the chance of locating those in distress.''

Coast Guard officials are concerned by what they see as greater recklessness on the part of migrant smugglers.

"Boats are more heavily overloaded than ever before and the smuggling trips are being made with increasing disregard for weather and sea conditions," said Coast Guard Capt. Wayne Justice in Miami. "Smugglers now view migrants as commodities rather than passengers."

FBI Miami spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said agents were investigating but had no additional details on the case.

"We have reports that people are missing from Cuba," Orihuela said. "We're just looking into it right now."

A Brevard County Sheriff's Department spokesperson said some of the remains could also be those of one or more Dominican Republic migrants.

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Hey I know how these guys fish in Florida and I guarantee that they casted at that floating head trying to catch dolphin before reporting it!I've personally have fished over broken refugee rafts quite often.Anyway it's not like they could have saved him!!
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