Florida Keys boat captain reunites with migrants he helped rescue

MARATHON, Fla. – A mother and daughter from Cuba are now recovering after being stranded at sea in the Florida Keys nearly two months ago.

Boat captain Chris Lassen said he’ll never forget the morning of October 31st when he saw the pair, along with two men, floating in what looked like pieces of a boat or raft.

Lassen, who works for Two Conchs Charters in Marathon, was taking people out for a day of fishing when he heard the cries for help.

“The closer I get, it’s even worse of a situation than I ever could have imagined,” Lassen recalled.

In video recorded by one of Lassen’s passengers, a man could be heard shouting, “she’s dying,” referring to the woman who was losing consciousness.

“They’re yelling at me, and I see this little girl behind her, between the guy. And the little girl is looking at me,” Lassen said.

Lassen said he started throwing water bottles from his boat to the foursome and called the Coast Guard.

“You could just tell that it wasn’t a good situation,” he said. “It actually chokes me up a little but thinking about it because, to see them in that situation is really bad.”

In minutes, a U.S. Navy rescue helicopter arrived and a rescue diver dropped into the water to swim to the group. Everyone was hoisted to safety, before the mother and daughter were rushed to a local hospital.

U.S. Border Patrol helped connect the pair with a local non-profit in Miami to provide shelter.

Now, nearly two months later, Lassen has reunited with the mother and her daughter named Yudeimis and Claire just before the holidays. He gave them clothes and was able to spend time with the pair.

“They were drifting straight east,” he said. “They weren’t even going to make it to land for another two days. [Yudeimis] would have never made it.”

Lassen told Local 10 News that the mother and daughter are doing much better since the incident and Claire is currently enrolling in school.

About the Author:

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.