Authorities plan to continue searching Tuesday for two Cuban rafters reported missing in waters off Key Biscayne after six days at sea.
Two other rafters were found Monday — one dead and the other suffering from dehydration but still onboard a homemade raft of four innertubes tied together. The man told U. S. Coast Guard rescuers about the three missing partners.
“He said he feared the others had drowned,” said Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll.
The Coast Guard quickly found the body of one rafter nearby just north of the raft.
The survivor was rushed to Mercy Hospital and the body was taken to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney.
Barney said boaters who were heading home to Central Florida first spotted the survivor around 3 p.m. The Good Samaritans called the Coast Guard to say the raft with the sole passenger was about seven miles southwest of Key Biscayne.
The closest vessel at the time was a Miami fire department boat, which rushed to the scene and found the unidentified rafter in serious condition and disoriented. He was transported for medical treatment.
“When we asked him his age, he said 42, but then he asked what day it was. When we told him it was December 9th , he began to cry and said it was birthday,” Carroll said.
Under current U. S. immigration policies, rafters intercepted at sea generally are returned to Cuba , while those who reach U.S. soil can stay. However, persons in distress who are brought to land for medical reasons usually are allowed to stay.
At least 271 Cubans were intercepted in the Florida Straits since Oct. 1, compared to a total of 1,357 in the previous fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. Just last month, at least 47 Cubans aboard three boats were spotted in the territorial waters of the Cayman Islands, a British possession 125 miles off the southeast coast of Cuba.