Less than three weeks have passed since the ‘Miss Janice’ fishing vessel sank into the Caribbean Sea with six men aboard.
But for Caymanians Travis Welcome, Elvis Welcome, Chad Ebanks and Ernest Rankine, it probably felt closer to a year.
Their wait ended Thursday afternoon as the four Caymanian boaters who were rescued at sea by a passing oil tanker flew into Grand Cayman aboard a United Airlines plane.
“I feel amazing, but I just want to sleep now,” said Elvis as he was surrounded by friends and family outside the Owen Roberts Airport terminal. “It was scary….but all that was on my mind was Cayman.”
Chad Ebanks was clearly shaken by the experience.
“I wouldn’t want to see nobody go through that in life,” Chad said. “Plenty of times I felt like I wasn’t going to make it.”
Boat captain Travis Welcome summed it up: “We been from home too long.”
The other two men aboard the vessel, Michael Garcia and Ted Woods, flew back directly to their native Honduras from Houston, Texas.
All six men were
processed through US Customs and Border Protection in Houston, Texas Wednesday morning and were assisted by their respective British and Honduran consulates.
Wasting no time upon finding a computer Wednesday, Elvis Welcome posted on his Facebook page: “1345 help me, thank God imma live!”
“Gotta thank God,” he said Thursday.
It’s been a long, strange trip for the six boaters aboard
the ‘Miss Janice’.
fishing vessel set out for Roatan, Honduras on 17 July. It capsized five hours after leaving the Cayman Islands.
Welcome said all six men aboard spent nine days floating on an inflatable raft, eating limited food
and drinking rainwater before they were picked up by the oil tanker CPO Sweden.
The rescue occurred around noon on 26 July. The crew was scheduled to be dropped off in Houston on 28 July, but had to be redirected to New Orleans because of dock space issues.
After waiting in the waters outside the New Orleans port for
about four days, the oil tanker that rescued the six boaters was
turned back to Houston.
According to a New Orleans attorney for the tanker CPO
Sweden, the vessel received orders to proceed back to Houston late Monday.
All told, the six men spent more than a week aboard the oil tanker – nearly as much time as they had been on the raft floating in the sea.
“People really showed a lot of kindness to us when we were picked up by the ship,” Travis said. “They took care of us very well.”
“The CPO Sweden, they’re very nice people,” Chad said. “They treated us like we were one of theirs.”
Janice Welcome, Travis’ wife, said she never believed her husband had been lost.
“It pays to serve the Lord,” she said. “God has proven to us that he is real.”
About 100 people, family and friends, waited on the airport viewing platform and watched the four men come in on the 4pm flight from Houston. Everyone then scampered downstairs to greet the boaters.
The throng around the men lasted for a good 20 minutes to a half hour as hugs and kisses were exchanged, welcome home signs waved and the group sung religious hymns.