Rescue at sea of five escaped Cuban refugees photographed by American cruise ship tourists
A Lehigh Acres, FL family enjoying their Caribbean cruise vacation were able to witness and photograph the rescue of five Cuban refugees who risked their lives on a rickety raft to escape the so-called reforms being implemented by the Castro dictatorship on the island prison.
A Lehigh Acres family at the tail end of a seven-day Caribbean cruise witnessed a rescue at sea of five Cuban refugees on a small rubber raft.
Charlie and Erika Bonacolta; their children, Nicholas, 20, Vincent, 16, Anthony 15 and Adriana, 14; and Nicholas’ girlfriend, Taylor Grace, 18, were sailing back to Port Everglades on Saturday after visiting Cozumel, Mexico, on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas when a small raft was spotted bobbing in the ocean.
“We were about 30 miles from Cuba,” Mrs. Bonacolta said, when the captain announced that a raft had been seen. “We slowed down and they sent a lifeboat out to pick them up,” she said.
In a tweet to The News-Press, Anthony Bonacolta said: “The captain said there was a small craft close to the ship that needed our attention. Everyone ran to look. There were 2 women and 3 men.”
In an additional tweet, he added: “The captain sent a rescue boat (to) get the Cubans. They were brought on board and were fed, given new clothes and showered.”
Anthony also took photos of the rescue and sent them to The News-Press.
“Their raft was a small, rubber-type raft,” Mrs. Bonacolta said and added that the captain later told passengers that the five refugees had been at sea for three days and nights.
She said a U.S. Coast Guard plane came out first and then a Coast Guard cutter stopped by the cruise ship and transferred the refugees over.
“They were laughing and blowing kisses to everyone” as they boarded the cutter, she said.