ST. PETERSBURG -- The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute offloaded an estimated 2,921 pounds of cocaine and marijuana - worth about $36 million on the street - Sunday at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector in St. Petersburg.
Officials said the Resolute was at sea training and supporting counter-narcotics and search and rescue operations when its crew detained four suspected Honduran drug smugglers in international waters off the coast of Honduras on Sept. 27.
A helicopter crew spotted the men aboard a 35-foot go-fast boat during a law enforcement patrol. While being chased, the four suspected smugglers jumped into the water in an attempt to flee the scene.
"In this particular case these traffickers leaped overboard during the interdiction, it's a first time for me to see that actually happen," Commander Charles Miller, with the U.S. Coast Guard said. The Resolute's crew pulled them from the water, and other crew members boarded the go-fast vessel and discovered 53 bales covered in a white powdery substance that later tested positive for cocaine.
In a separate incident, the crew of the Resolute also interdicted more than $1 million worth of marijuana when their helicopter spotted another go-fast vessel. The helicopter was able to force the go-fast crew to jettison its drug shipment before the go-fast escaped into Nicaraguan waters.
"It makes me feel good that they're off the market. It will make me feel a lot better when they are off my ship," Commander Miller said before the drugs were unloaded. "It doesn't happen every patrol, but it's certainly what we're out there looking for." Resolute’s crew then recovered 45 bales of marijuana from the water, weighing nearly 1,500 pounds.
Sunday's offloading came on the same day in which the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence offloaded about $2 million worth of seized marijuana in Port Canaveral.
"I expect that we'll see drugs carried at sea in go fast vessels for many years to come, simply because it's cheap and fast," Commander Miller said.
The suspects in the drug smuggleing operations were handed over to another coast guard cutter at sea, and delivered for prosecution.
The drugs will now be turned over to an inter-agency counter drug task force for evidence before being destroyed.