The trio, two Cuban men and a woman, were accidentally found Monday on the small island between the Florida Keys and Cuba by the crew of a patrolling plane. The three waved a homemade flag to attract attention, reports BBC based on the people involved.
The crew of the patrol plane were unable to carry out an immediate rescue, and weather conditions forced the three islanders to sleep on the island for another night. In the meantime, the Coast Guard has dropped food, water and a radio so they can communicate with each other.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have people on our team who spoke Spanish fluently, but with my better Spanish, I found out that they were from Cuba and needed medical attention,” the coast guard said. Riley Beecher at the BBC. “They could explain that they had been detained on the island for about 33 days.”
The three men told Coast Guard they had swam the island weeks earlier when their boat started to capsize for reasons still unclear. Rescuers were amazed they could have lasted so long. “At first glance, the island doesn’t seem to have much, but there is brush and trees so they can hide a bit from the inclement weather,” said a member of the rescue team.
A helicopter finally managed to evacuate the three Cubans from the island, called Anguilla Cay, on Tuesday. The two men and the woman were immediately transferred to a hospital in Florida. They looked dehydrated and tired, but now they’re okay under the circumstances. “They were very clear and articulate about what was going on,” a member of the Coast Guard told NBC. “It was amazing. I don’t know how they did it. I am amazed that they were in such good condition when we found them.
Coast Guard Officer Sean Connett called the rescue mission a “complex operation” in a statement. “Our crew, who diligently carry out routine patrols, allowed us to see and intervene with those in need. It was a very complex operation involving resources and crews from different units, but good communication and coordination between command centers and pilots allowed us to bring everyone safely into a medical establishment before the situation deteriorates.
If the trio had not been found, they likely would have died from a lack of fresh water, the Coast Guard said. They were turned over to the US Immigration and Customs Service.
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