Two Central American boaters not found
In the first search and rescue mission, which began Wednesday night and continued into Thursday night, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers saved two Central American boaters from an idled canoe about 30 miles off the coast of Grand Cayman.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Marine Unit, the RCIPS helicopter and U.S. Coast Guard crews were unable to locate two other men who had apparently jumped off the canoe into the sea southwest of Grand Cayman. The two missing men got lost after diving into the water in an attempt to retrieve a rescue package dropped to them by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The vessel was said to have been at sea for several days and with the large amount of marine life seen around the vessel, it is unlikely we would still find them,” RCIPS Inspector Ian Yearwood said Friday.
According to initial reports from police, at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday, the RCIPS was notified that a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft spotted distress flares from a vessel southeast of Grand Cayman. The RCIPS Marine Unit and the police helicopter responded to assist in the rescue effort.
The 36-foot canoe was found with two men from either Costa Rica or Nicaragua on board. They were taken off the watercraft and placed aboard the police patrol boat Niven D.
The police marine unit ferried the men back to Grand Cayman, where they were treated at the Cayman Islands hospital for dehydration.
Arrangements were being made to repatriate the men last week.
They had apparently been at sea for 15 days on a fishing trip during which time their boat’s engine failed and they were left adrift in the Caribbean basin.
RCIPS Air Operations Commander Steve Fitzgerald said Thursday that the search shifted from southeast to southwest of Grand Cayman after police located the package thrown from the Coast Guard chopper – which contained a marine radio – about 40 miles southwest of the main island.
Mr. Fitzgerald admitted finding the two remaining boaters adrift at sea was a daunting task.
One man was apparently wearing a black-colored life jacket, virtually impossible to spot during an air search; the other man had no life jacket and no shirt on.
In a separate operation late Friday afternoon, the joint Marine Unit responded to another vessel in distress call.
This one was received at 4:03 p.m. Friday from a passing ship indicating they had come across a Cuban vessel with six men in distress approximately 30 miles east of Grand Cayman.
The men requested assistance in getting to shore.
The police patrol vessel Defender was able to pick up all six men safely and ferry them back to Grand Cayman.