The crew of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on Thursday rescued seven illegal immigrants from Cuba stranded on a rock formation at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff off Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
Mona Island is between the west coast of Puerto Rico and the east coast of the Dominican Republic.
“These six men and woman are very fortunate to have survived,” San Juan Sector Commander Capt. Robert Warren said in a press release issued Friday. “For those contemplating the voyage, do not take to the sea. You would be placing your lives in the hands of smugglers who care nothing for your safety or survival.”
The six men and one woman were spotted Thursday morning by Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources park rangers stationed on Mona Island. The rangers reported to the Coast Guard seven people stranded on a rock formation 20 to 30 feet above the water.
Coast Guard staff in San Juan proceeded to divert the Coast Guard cutter Matinicus and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen to complete the rescue.
The rough seas did not allow for the Cubans to be rescued by small boat. When the Coast Guard helicopter arrived on the scene, its crew deployed a rescue swimmer from the to assess the situation. The stranded Cubans were assisted by the rescue swimmer and safely hoisted and removed from the danger by the Coast Guard helicopter. (See video link below.)
The rescued people were reported to be in good health and transferred to the care of island park rangers until weather conditions allowed for Matinicus to safely remove them by small boat from Mona Island.
The Coast Guard cutter Matinicus is a 110-foot patrol boat, home ported in San Juan.