At least 17 migrants from Haiti died Wednesday when their overloaded sailboat capsized as it was being towed to shore in the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials in the British territory said.

A marine unit of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force had intercepted the packed sloop about two hours earlier and was escorting it to shore when it abruptly overturned, sparking a frantic search and rescue operation in the pre-dawn darkness.