1 dead after 15 days
Three Jamaican men that were rescued off the coast of Cayman Tuesday afternoon have told police they had been drifting aimlessly at sea for about 15 days without food and water before being found.
The men, all in their 20s, were rescued by marine police and customs officers aboard the Cayman Protector late Tuesday afternoon about 10 miles off the coast of Cayman.
A fourth member of the crew died during the ordeal. The three surviving men were taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration but were all expected to survive.
‘They were very, very happy to see us,’ said one of the officers involved in the rescue. ‘But then they started to grieve for their dead friend.’
The men have told police they left Jamaica for a fishing trip to Pedro Bank, which is about 80 miles southwest of Jamaica and about 210 miles south-east of Grand Cayman, before becoming lost on their return. They were in a 32ft canoe with a 75 horse-power engine.
The rescue was sparked when one of the men on the canoe called 911, saying he was on board a boat that had been drifting for some days without food or water. He reported that he could see a cruise ship.
Brad Ebanks, Commander of the Joint Customs and Marine Unit said the men must have drifted over 200 miles. ‘They had no idea where they were,’ he said. ‘They could only say that they could see land and some white buildings.’
The cruise ship, the Carnival Legend, was contacted and veered off course to look for the vessel but could not find it.
‘After seeing the ship in the area and then seeing the ship leave, I think they started to lose hope that they were going to be found,’ Mr. Ebanks said. However rescuers used the ships’ coordinates to pinpoint an approximate area for the vessel and soon located it.
Officers aboard the Cayman Protector gave the men sports drinks and water on their return, but refrained from feeding them on the advice of doctors at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
They were met by paramedics at the George Town harbour and transported to hospital for treatment, where they remain in stable conditions.
The deceased man remained in the canoe, which was towed to shore by the Department of Environment.
The men are now under the watch of immigration officers and have also been questioned by detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department, who are trying to determine what happened. The canoe has been taken for examination.
Jamaican authorities have been contacted about the rescue but it was unclear whether news of the men’s survival had been communicated to family members in Jamaica at press time.
‘I’m extremely proud of my officers,’ said Mr. Ebanks, ‘extremely proud.’
‘We didn’t have a lot to go on when they said they couldn’t see the ship anymore. But through the training we have received and our navigation and search and rescue skills, we were able to find them.’
He described the rescue as an all round effort, paying tribute to others involved including staff aboard the Carnival Legend; Bodden Shipping, which liaised with the cruise ship; the Department of Environment, which towed the canoe to shore helping rescuers get the three men to treatment faster; the Port Authority; 911 staff; and health professionals at the Cayman Islands Hospital.