Nathan PlaceWed, 10 February 2021, 5:08 pm
The two men and one woman, all Cuban nationals, said they had survived on coconuts, rats, and the meat of conch shells, but had no fresh water. Their rescuers said it was astonishing they had survived so long.
“I cannot recall a time that we saved people who were stranded for over a month on an island,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Brandon Murray told the Sun Sentinel. “That is a new one for me.”
The Coast Guard first discovered the trio on Monday. During a routine patrol, a sentry spotted three people waving makeshift flags on an island in Anguilla Cay, an archipelago between Cuba and the Lower Keys.
The crew air-dropped supplies to the stranded group, including food, water, and a radio to begin communications. A full rescue was delayed, however, due to poor weather.
The next day a rescue helicopter finally arrived, lifted the three Cubans off the island, and transported them to Lower Keys Medical Center in Florida. Incredibly, the three had no reported injuries.
“This was a very complex operation involving assets and crews from different units,” Sean Connett, command duty officer at Coast Guard Seventh District, said in a statement, “but thanks to good communication and coordination between command centers and pilots, we were able to safely get everyone to a medical facility before the situation could worsen.”
How the castaways ended up on the island in the first place is still somewhat mysterious. They told the Coast Guard they swam ashore after their boat capsized five weeks ago, but it was not immediately clear where the boat had been going. Officers wondered if they were migrants attempting to reach the US or just fishermen lost at sea, but had no answers.
The only thing certain about the group’s story is the miraculousness of their survival.
“That is pretty extraordinary. It was incredible,” Lt. Justin Dougherty told WPLG. “I don’t know how they did it. I am amazed that they were in such good shape.”