Burial plans for 33 Haitian drowning victims remained clouded by political wrangling as Justice Department lawyers mediated conflicting claims by relatives and the Haitian government.
The Defense Department will keep the bodies at Homestead Air Force Base until the lawyers decide how many can be buried by relatives in the United States, Rep. E. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) said.
The Haitians drowned Monday when their sailboat broke up in heavy seas just off Hillsboro Beach north of Fort Lauderdale as they were trying to enter the United States.
Transfer of the bodies to the Air Force base Thursday ended a struggle that developed when Broward County Sheriff Robert Butterworth refused to turn the bodies over to the Haitian government. Haitian officials wanted all 33 victims buried in their homeland as a "matter of national pride."
Meanwhile, investigators have discounted the theory that a "mother ship" smuggled the refugees into U.S. waters.
Officials had speculated the Haitians made the bulk of their voyage in a mother ship after autopsies indicated many of the victims had eaten a substantial cooked meal two hours before they died. But since then, there have been indications some refugees might have hoarded cooked food given them during a stop in Cuba.