In what to me sounds like a situation pulled from the harrowing reality-TV show Alone, three people recently survived a 33-day stranding on a deserted Bahamian island. Unlike Alone, however, the castaways were not practiced survivalists equipped with their limited choice of tools; they were two men and one woman whose boat capsized in a storm, and they subsisted on coconuts, conchs, and rats.
On Monday, U.S. Coast Guard pilots spotted the trio during a routine surveillance flight over the waters between the Florida Keys and Cuba. Apparently, the pilots saw them waving a makeshift flag.
“I’ve seen this island many times, but it kind of stood out,” Lieutenant Riley Beecher, commander of the aircraft that initiated the rescue, told the New York Times, of Anguilla Cay. “As we got closer, right on top of the flag, two individuals came out frantically waving their hands, trying to signal us down that they were really in distress.”
The crew dropped supplies on the island, including water and a radio, which enabled them to speak with the stranded parties. The castaways were from Cuba, and had reportedly been eating coconuts to stay hydrated. A second plane swung by with water bottles, life vests, and some food, although bad weather precluded the Coast Guard from rescuing the trio before Tuesday. Although the woman required medical attention and everyone was severely dehydrated, no one was seriously injured, and they were transferred to a Key West hospital.
“I was amazed how well they had it together, how coherent they were speaking to us,” Lieutenant Justin Dougherty, who commanded the second plane, told the Times. “They definitely sounded really relieved.” Which, yes.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, it’s unclear if the people were trying to reach the U.S. from Cuba or if they simply got lost at sea. They are now in ICE custody in Pompano Beach, Florida.