Coast Guard rescues 14 Cuban migrants stranded on Monito Island, Puerto Rico

The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez small boat on scene with a Puerto Rico Police marine unit and a Coast Guard rescue helicopter during the rescue of 14 Cuban migrants, nine men and five women, who were stranded at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on Monito Island, Puerto Rico Oct. 25, 2016. The migrants were safely recovered from the perilous cliff. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Ellis.)

The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez small boat on scene with a Puerto Rico Police marine unit and a Coast Guard rescue helicopter during the rescue of 14 Cuban migrants on Monito Island, Puerto Rico Oct. 25, 2016.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Ellis.)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico –Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Police crews rescued 14 Cuban migrants in the Mona Passage Tuesday morning, who were stranded on the uninhabited natural reserve of Monito Island, Puerto Rico.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan were initially contacted by Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Park Rangers on Mona Island, who reported seeing flashing lights coming from the neighbor island of Monito.

Coast Guard watchstanders proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez and launched an MH-65D Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen to further investigate and rescue any persons in distress.  A Puerto Rico Police marine unit also responded to assist.

Upon arriving on scene, the crew of the Heriberto Hernandez located the group of migrants, 9 men and five women, taking shelter inside a cave at the bottom of a 150-cliff just above sea level.  The Heriberto Hernandez launched their Over the Horizon IV small boat to recover the migrants, while the Coast Guard helicopter hoisted two rescue swimmers down to the small boat who assisted in transferring the migrants to the surface assets on scene.

“The safe rescue of 14 men and women from the jagged caves of Monito Island is a challenging evolution,” said Lt. Sara Cahill, Coast Guard MH-65D helicopter co-pilot on scene.  “Utilizing extensive planning and communications within various Coast Guard units, as well as working with our local partner agencies, we were able to transport all migrants safely from the exposed caves to the waiting Coast Guard vessels.”

The migrants were transported to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where they were transferred to awaiting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol agents Wednesday morning.

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