A Haitian man accused of piloting a boat overloaded with migrants that capsized off South Florida, killing at least nine migrants, is being held without bail.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Vitunac on Wednesday told Jimmy Metellus those deaths make him "potentially eligible" for the death penalty. He's charged with alien smuggling resulting in death.

Metellus was among 16 survivors rescued last week. He told investigators a smuggler hired him to pilot the vessel to Miami from the Bahamas with about 30 migrants on board.

Metellus is a Haitian citizen with permanent U.S. resident status.

A message left at the federal public defender's office wasn't immediately returned.