KEY WEST, Florida – The crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) DHC-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, from the New Orleans Air and Marine Branch detected and coordinated the rescue of a fishing vessel that had been drifting for nearly a week during a maritime patrol in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
On the afternoon of April 21st, the DHC-8 crew detected the vessel, an 18-foot wooden fishing vessel with a small inboard engine, and decided to overfly it to further investigate. Once the aircraft was overhead, the AMO agents witnessed four people in distress waving their arms attempting to gain their attention. While the DHC-8 crew orbited the vessel, they hailed a nearby freighter and provided vectors to the distressed vessel location. The aircraft remained on scene until the freighter, “H.A. Sklenar”, arrived less than two hours later. The captain of the freighter informed the DHC-8 crew that 6 Cubans had been rescued after 6 or 7 days adrift a sea. They had had very little water and nothing to eat during that time.
“Our agents remain vigilant for detecting smuggling threats to the homeland, but when we encounter individuals in distress, that becomes our first priority,” stated Francisco “Chichi” Rodriguez, Director of the New Orleans Air and Marine Branch. “Thanks to these dedicated professionals, 6 men are alive today.”
The crew of the H.A. Sklenar provided care for the Cubans until their next port of call.
AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. CBP Air and Marine Operations specialized law enforcement capabilities allow AMO to make significant contributions to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts, as well as to federal, state, local and tribal agencies. AMO conducts its mission between ports of entry, in the maritime environment and within the nation’s interior.