Man lost at sea after attempting to escape from Cuba in boat
By Grant Boxleitner
Originally posted on December 16, 200
Federal and local authorities attempted to learn more details Thursday about how a Cuban man wound up on Fort Myers Beach and whether a second man may still be in the Gulf of Mexico.
Antonio Gonzales Secades, 35, of Artemiza, Cuba, was taken by border patrol officials from Lee County Jail to the station in Pembroke Pines for processing at about noon Thursday.
Secades told Lee County sheriff’s officials he took off Friday from Cuba in a motorized 10-foot boat with friend Liban Marquez, 27. He said the boat hit a hard object in the Gulf and overturned. Secades said a fisherman plucked him from the waters off Fort Myers Beach late Monday to early Tuesday but was unable to find the other man.
The fisherman dropped him off, where he wandered for about a day until he flagged down a deputy at the intersection of Old San Carlos and Estero boulevards, sheriff’s reports show. He said his friend was lost at sea.
But U.S. Coast Guard officials Thursday said they never conducted an official search for the alleged missing man. There was not enough specific information about the man’s whereabouts in the Gulf of Mexico, said Petty Officer 1st Class Danielle DeMarino. Sheriff’s aviation and marine units stopped a search for the missing boater along Fort Myers Beach, sheriff’s officials said.
“There was no defined search area,” DeMarino said. “All units were advised to keep a sharp lookout for the man, but we’re not actively searching.”
Steve McDonald, an assistant chief at the border patrol, said Secades will be fingerprinted and checked for a past criminal history. He’ll also be questioned about how he arrived here before he’s free to apply for a change in legal status, McDonald said.
“Right now, we’re trying to get more information about who he is other than his name and age and how he came up on our shores,” sheriff’s spokesman Angelo Vaughn said.
In July, 19 Cuban refugees were dropped off on a beach at nearby Sanibel Island by smugglers in a speedboat.
The refugees had departed from Pinar del Rio province in northwest Cuba, about 250 miles from Sanibel.