MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A group of men out boating came across a small boat packed with Cuban migrants trying to make it to U.S. shore. But the trip wouldn’t end the way the Cubans wanted.
“We throw them one of the bottles and they drank and go, ‘Wow, cold water,’” boater Julio Perera told CBS4’s Tiani Jones in an exclusive interview.
It was supposed to be a fishing trip with guys over the long holiday weekend – that’s how the story was supposed to play out.
But on Perera and Robert Cardoso’s Sunday fishing trip, their radar spotted what they assumed was another fishing boat.
The closer they got, they would find a group desperate for help.
“They were asking which way and I said, ‘You guys are 15 miles out. You guys are drifting back out. You guys aren’t even drifting in,’” Cardoso explained to Jones.
Perera and Cardoso have been boaters all of their adult lives, but this was a scene these men had only witnessed on TV.
“Nothing like this… nothing like this. I mean yeah we’ve seen it, but when it hits home like this. I mean you got these guys begging to get on your boat, ‘Please they’re going to send me back to Cuba.’ It’s just…,” Cardoso said without finishing the sentence.
A total of 15 Cuban men were on the boat trying to make it to American soil. A host of problems cut their trip short.
“He started saying they were close to shore the night before and their motor went bad,” Cardoso explained.
Perera added, “They had one guy pumping. If you see the video, it’s one guy pumping all the time. Every time we were talking to him, pumping water out and another guy with a bucket. So you had two guys taking out water consistently.”
Perera said they saw another boat actually circle the raft and then speed off.
The duo stayed.
“We just threw everything we had on the boat with them. All our water, our Powerade, you know, our food our sandwiches and everything. We just gave it to them,” Cardoso said.
They knew for legal and safety reasons they could only provide food and water, call for help and wait until that help arrived.
“When they realized – ‘OK, we’re going to get picked up. Hey, can you call?’ So he gave me two relatives from here for me to call and then hey, one of them, and I still get goosebumps, ‘Hey, can you call my wife in Cuba and let her know that I’m alive,’” Perera said.