Family survives 20 hours after boat sinks off Florida

Seven members of a U.S. family, including a 4-year-old girl, survived 20 hours at sea by clinging to their capsized boat and a small cooler after their vessel flipped during a fishing trip off the Florida Keys, officials said Monday.

MIAMI — Seven members of a U.S. family, including a 4-year-old girl, survived 20 hours at sea by clinging to their capsized boat and a small cooler after their vessel flipped during a fishing trip off the Florida Keys, officials said Monday.

A 79-year-old mother of two of the rescued boaters, Zaida San Jurjo Gonzalez, was missing and presumed drowned.

The other women told rescuers they didn’t have time to grab life jackets for anyone except the girl when two waves suddenly flipped the boat off Long Key in choppy, rainy waters Saturday afternoon, U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Kendra Graves said.

Jorge Alejo Gonzalez and the two other men tried to help his mother, but she went under the water within minutes, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Robert Dube.

“He could not hold onto his mother and she went under,” Dube said.

State wildlife officials identified the other men as Jorge Gonzalez’s uncle, Jose Miguel De Armas, and his sister’s boyfriend, Juglar Riveras.

The boaters quickly drifted apart. The men held onto the boat. The three women and the girl — Jorge Gonzalez’s sister, Elena; his wife, Tomasa Torres Gonzalez; and his uncle’s wife, Yunisleidy Lima Tejada, and their daughter Fabiana — clung to the cooler.

A commercial fisherman saw the capsized boat Sunday morning and rescued the men, Dube said.

The women and girl were soon picked up by the Coast Guard, several miles from where the boat had capsized.

“They were hanging onto the cooler. It was afloat but its main purpose was to keep them together,” Graves said.

Once aboard, the women asked about the men.

“They wanted to know, ’Where are our husbands?”’ Graves said.

The women said they had been fishing from their anchored boat about 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometres) off the Middle Keys when it flipped.

The boaters were wrapped in blankets and treated for shock and hypothermia.

“They were all pretty happy to see each other,” Graves said.

It wasn’t clear if the boaters were aware of an advisory posted early Saturday warning of wind speeds of 23-38 mph (37-61 kph) and seas 7 feet (2.1 metres) or higher as torrential rains poured over the region.

“They shouldn’t have been out there,” Dube said.

The conditions improved by early Sunday. While spending long hours in choppy water would have been difficult, the warm waters off the Keys were survivable, said Bill South, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Several cases of COVID-19 were reported among employees of stores at Bower Place Mall. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
COVID-19 cases reported at Bower Place mall stores

AHS said five complaints were investigated since March, and required changes made

Edmonton Eskimos' Tanner Green, right, knocks the ball from Calgary Stampeders' Romar Morris during first half CFL football action in Calgary, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lacombe’s Tanner Green happy to finally see a CFL return to play date

CFL announced Wednesday league will return on Aug. 5

Instructor Brandt Trimble leads an outdoor spin class at RYDE RD. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Fitness facilities continue to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

‘It’s really frustrating to be one of the targeted businesses’

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins (Photo contributed)
Federal budget strangles job growth, says MP Blaine Calkins

‘It is most certainly not a balanced budget’

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

The Rogers Logo is photographed in Toronto office on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Rogers CEO ‘deeply disappointed’ software upgrade caused wireless outage

TORONTO — The chief executive of Rogers Communications Inc. said Wednesday that… Continue reading

Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem holds a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

Pumpjacks pump crude oil in Alberta on June 20, 2007.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Court asked to step in as SanLing Energy warns it intends to stop operations

Court asked to step in as SanLing Energy warns it intends to stop operations

Canadian Pacific Railway president and CEO Keith Creel addresses the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Wednesday, May 10, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CP Rail asks U.S. regulator to rule on its and CN’s rival Kansas City Southern bids

CP Rail asks U.S. regulator to rule on its and CN’s rival Kansas City Southern bids

A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Site of COVID outbreak last year: Vaccination clinic at Alberta meat plant postponed

HIGH RIVER, Alta. — A COVID-19 vaccination clinic for thousands of workers… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘We hope to help a little more’: Biden says he spoke to Trudeau about more vaccines

WASHINGTON — Canada can look forward to an unexpected shot in the… Continue reading

The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. A new federal study found that people released from prison were much more likely than the general population to have trouble finding gainful employment, even over a decade after returning to society. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Ease employment hurdles for former prison inmates, federal study urges

OTTAWA — A new federal study found that people released from prison… Continue reading

Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem holds a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada is keeping its key interest rate… Continue reading

Most Read