Published on 01/28/2022 15:26
(Credit: US Coast Guard/Reuters)
An image of a young man sitting on the hull of an upturned boat in the middle of the sea off the coast of Florida has gone viral around the world.
This is Juan Esteban Montoya, 22, from Colombia, according to BBC News Mundo’s Spanish-language news channel.
The young man, who was rescued on Tuesday (1/25) after spending hours adrift, said he left the Bahamas at dawn Sunday with 39 other people.
He was traveling with his younger sister, Maria Camilla, who had disappeared into the wreckage.
The US Coast Guard rescued five bodies from the sea before ending its search – in a sea area the size of the US state of New Jersey – on Thursday (1/27).
Authorities were alerted to the incident on Tuesday when a merchant ship spotted a man clinging to the hull of a boat 72 km from Fort Pierce, Florida.
US officials believe the ship may be part of a “people-smuggling scheme”.
None of the 40 passengers was wearing a life jacket, according to Montoya, who is from Guacarí municipality in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca region.
He was rescued on Tuesday when the locomotive captain, Signet Intruder, discovered him in trouble.
“At 8:05 a.m., we brought him on board, and he was immediately treated. Since he was dehydrated, we gave him water and some food. He was very weak and very depressed,” said Signet Shipping Operations Manager. , in Florida, by Atahualpa Ameris of BBC News Mundo.
“He told us there were 40 people on his boat in total, including him, and that after leaving Bimini in the middle of the night from Saturday to Sunday, they completed four hours of the voyage until bad weather caused the boat to capsize.”
Montoya told the ship’s crew that about 20 people would have resisted for hours, clinging to the hull.
Captain Joe Ann Burdian, Coast Guard commander in Sector Miami, said at a news conference that the incident occurred on a “normal” route for people smuggling from the Bahamas into the southern United States.
The weather conditions on Sunday included a severe cold front, high waves and strong winds.
Bimini Island is the westernmost region in the Bahamas, only 80 kilometers from Miami.
Accidents involving boats full of people are not uncommon in Florida waters. Many of the cases involve immigrants from Cuba and Haiti trying to reach the United States.
And on Tuesday, the same day authorities learned of the sinking, the Coast Guard intercepted 191 Haitians in the waters off the Bahamas.
And in another accident just days ago, 88 Haitians were found aboard a boat packed in the area.
The Coast Guard warned in a statement that “navigating the Florida Straits and the Mina and Windward Channels in overcrowded vessels and under conditions suitable for navigation is extremely dangerous and may result in loss of life.”
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