The Coast Guard searched through the night Tuesday for 39 people missing from a capsized boat after a solitary survivor was found clinging to the overturned hull off the Florida coast.
In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Captain Jo-Ann Burdian confirmed that one body was recovered. She said that body will be transferred ashore on Wednesday.
She added that officials are continuing to search for more survivors and said, so far, they've searched an area of about 7,500 nautical miles which is about the size of New Jersey.
Captain Burdian said the Coast Guard was notified of a capsized 25-foot boat at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. It was found about 45 miles east of the Fort Pierce Inlet with a survivor on the hull.
The man told a good Samaritan who rescued him that 40 people left the island of Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night in the suspected human smuggling operation. He said none wore life jackets as they capsized in severe weather.
According to Captain Burdian, the survivor said the boat capsized shortly after it departed. Captain Burdian said the survivor is in stable condition.
Captain Burdian said search conditions are Wednesday are "very good" and an aircraft taking part in the operation is reporting debris fields that are being investigated.
"My deepest condolences go out to the families of anyone who may be missing in this particular case," Captain Burdian said.
"Without life jackets, anyone is disadvantaged to survive in the water. Life jackets save lives, no matter what the circumstance, " Captain Burdian later added. "It is dire. The longer they remain in the water without food, without water, exposed to the marine environment — the sun, the sea conditions — it is, every moment that passes it becomes much more dire and unlikely that anyone could survive in those conditions."
Captain Burdian said Homeland Security is investigating the suspected human smuggling aspect of the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report