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Coast Guard says flags, cross alerted them to woman, 2 men on uninhabited island for 33 days

MIAMI – The U.S. Coast Guard found a woman and two men stranded on an uninhabited Bahamian island, between Key West and Cuba. They had been there for nearly five weeks.

According to a news release from the Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry first spotted the trio waving a makeshift flag while they were on routine patrol Monday.

The aircrew dropped them food, water and a radio so they could speak with them while a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 helicopter crew was deployed to the scene.

Aircraft Commander Mike Allert, a helicopter pilot, said on Tuesday that the crew first noticed some unusual flags on the island.

“We were alerted to them by the flags that they actually had in addition to a large cross that they put out there for themselves,” Allert said.

The three Cuban nationals were stranded in the Anguilla Cay, a Bahama Banks’ island off the southeast end of Cay Sal Bank. Lt. Justin Dougherty said they were there for 33 days after their boat had capsized in rough waters and they were able to swim to the island.

The USCG Clearwater helicopter crew rescued them.

Coast Guard pilot spots castaways who had been stranded on an uninhabited island for 33 days. (U.S. Coast Guard)

“That is pretty extraordinary. It was incredible,” Dougherty said, adding it was probably on coconuts. “I don’t know how they did it. I am amazed that they were in such good shape.”

The castaways told a Coast Guard crew that they had survived there by eating the meat of conchs and rats, and what would have killed them was the lack of fresh water. They were hospitalized at the Lower Keys Medical Center in Monroe County and have since been transferred into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Pompano Beach.

Local 10 News Assignment Desk Editor Guadalupe Monarrez contributed to this report.


About the Authors:

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.