Body recovered, 17 still missing after Cuban migrants took to sea amid Hurricane Ian

9 migrants rescued since Wednesday when boat sank in the Straits of Florida

MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Friday that one person was found dead near Ocean Edge Marina in Key West and 17 remain missing after a group of migrants from Cuba took to the sea amid Hurricane Ian.

Officials have confirmed that nine people have been rescued since Wednesday morning when the group’s boat sank in the Straits of Florida.

Four migrants were able to swim to shore.

The group had been out at sea for five days. They spoke exclusively with Local 10 News Wednesday night, describing a harrowing journey.

Their journey came as Hurricane Ian zeroed in on Florida, with high winds and rain pummeling the Keys the day prior.

“We were close to the coast of Cuba for two days and two nights and they didn’t rescue us,” one migrant said. “Thirteen miles away, we lit things up and nothing. Two days, close to Cuba’s coast and no one rescued us.”

That migrant described extreme weather conditions.

“Waves 15 meters high, waves, waves ,waves, waves,” he said. “There was so much rain and on the third day, we were left without water.”

After being detained, four of the migrants were released to their families Wednesday afternoon. Four others remain in U.S. Border Patrol custody.

“From Friday at one in the morning until Tuesday, we spent six days out at sea,” one of the migrants said in Spanish to Local 10 News, adding that they made the incredibly dangerous journey, “for the right to be free.”

WATCH: One migrant recalls harrowing journey from Cuba to South Florida (Video in Spanish).

Migrante que arriesgó su vida para salir de Cuba durante el huracán Ian dice que el viaje era peligroso pero que valía la pena para poder tener libertad

“It’s dangerous, but being free is worth more than the risk we are taking,” he said.

Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar, who leads the Border Patrol’s Miami sector, tweeted that the four migrants who made it to shore landed on Stock Island, immediately east of Key West.

Slosar, attributed the sinking to “inclement weather.”

Just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard tweeted that its crews rescued three migrants from the water about two miles south of Boca Chica Key.

Those three migrants were taken to a local hospital for symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration, officials said, adding to the four migrants evaluated at the hospital after swimming ashore.

Air crews continued to search for the remaining missing migrants Friday.

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for