Three castaways believed to have been stranded on an uninhabited island in the Bahamas for 33 days after their boat sank have been rescued.
A US Coast Guard aircraft was on a routine patrol flying between the Florida Keys and Cuba on Monday and as they flew over the tiny island of Anguilla Cay, crew members spotted the trio frantically waving clothing at them.
Coast Guard officer Riley Beecher told the BBC that they were out on patrol when “something caught the attention of my eye”. When they came back around at a lower altitude, they realised that there were people in distress on the island.
The aircraft was not equipped to carry out an immediate rescue, but food, water and a two-way radio were dropped to the castaways.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have any fluent Spanish speakers but in my broken Spanish I was able to discern that they were from Cuba and that they needed medical assistance. They made sure to stress that they had been on the island for 33 days,” Beecher said.
The group of two men and one woman were airlifted from the island by helicopter on Tuesday and taken to a medical centre in Florida. They have since been transferred to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Coast Guard says.
They told Coast Guard officials that they swam to the island after their boat sank a month before and they had survived by eating rats and conch meat.
One of the crew members involved in the rescue told the BBC, “We were amazed that they were able to survive for so long. At first glance the island doesn’t seem to have much, but there is some shrubbery there and some trees so they were able to stay out of the elements somewhat”.
Other members of the rescue team told the BBC they had never witnessed a situation like it before saying, “We’ve never come across anyone who’s been stranded for anywhere like that length of time before.”