Coast Guard rescues 8 Cuban migrants stranded on Monito Island, Puerto Rico

The crew of a Coast Guard Cutter Resolute cutter boat prepares to rescue eight Cuban migrants, seven men and one woman, stranded at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on Monito Island, Puerto Rico, March 11, 2015. The Resolute, in coordination with the Coast Guard Cutter Farallon and MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Air Station Borinquen, safely recovered the migrants from the perilous cliff. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The crew of a Coast Guard Cutter Resolute cutter boat prepares to rescue eight Cuban migrants stranded at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on Monito Island, Puerto Rico, March 11, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico –Coast Guard cutters and rescue helicopters rescued eight Cuban migrants from Monito Island, Puerto Rico Wednesday afternoon following a two-day rescue effort in the Mona Passage.

“Our crews did excellent work to save these lives, but this is a stark reminder of how smugglers endanger migrants by taking to the sea and attempting to cross the Mona Passage,” said Capt. Michael Zamperini, Acting Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.

The seven men and a woman rescued were spotted Tuesday afternoon by the pilot of a Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft on a routine patrol in the Mona Passage. The group was stranded at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff of the uninhabited island, which serves as a natural reserve and bird habitat located just off Mona Island.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard  Sector San Juan proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Farallon and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen to complete the rescue.

The Farallon arrived on scene Tuesday afternoon and deployed the cutter small boat to deliver life jackets and heaving lines to the migrants. Rescue efforts were placed on hold throughout the night after on-scene conditions and heavy seas prevented the migrants from being safely recovered.

The Coast Guard Cutter Resolute that was also diverted to assist with rescue efforts, arrived on scene Wednesday and deployed two cutter small boats that worked in coordination with two rescue swimmers from a Coast Guard helicopter to rescue the migrants from the perilous cliff. The migrants jumped into the water one at a time, where they were assisted by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer and safely recovered by the Resolute cutter boats.

“The excellent team coordination by all units including the on-scene initiative displayed by the aircrew, swimmers, small boats, cutters Farallon and Resolute enabled a safe rescue of the migrants stranded on a remote area of the island that was difficult to access, said Cmdr. Matthew T. Brown, Coast Guard Cutter Resolute commanding officer.”

The migrants were transferred from the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute to the Farallon for transport to Puerto Rico. Upon the Farallon’s arrival to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Wednesday night, the crew transferred custody of the migrants to awaiting Customs and Border Protection authorities.

The Coast Guard Cutter Farallon is a 110-foot patrol boat, homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard Cutter Resolute is a 210-foot Reliance Class Cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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