The BBC reports that an aircrew was on a patrol when it saw the group—comprised of two men and one woman—desperately flying a homemade flag on the island, Anguilla Cay. A crew member who was on the flight told the outlet he was “amazed that they were able to survive for so long.” The three Cuban nationals subsisted on coconuts, rats, and conches on the uninhabited island, which is situated between the Florida Keys and Cuba.
Coast Guard official Riley Beecher said “something caught the attention of my eye” from the plane on Monday. When he went to take a closer look at a lower altitude, he saw the group. The crew couldn’t carry them in their aircraft but dropped them food, water, and a radio so they could communicate.
“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 told the aircrew that when their boat sank, they swam to the island and, according to Coast Guard official Justin Doughtery, were “able to get nourishment from coconuts.” He continued, “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.”
A helicopter airlifted the trio on Tuesday and took them to a medical center in Florida. None of them suffered any injuries and they were subsequently transferred to ICE. “I’ve never come across anyone who’s been [stranded] for anywhere like that length of time before,” Dougherty said.