Another unusual automobile-turned-vessel almost made it to the Florida Keys from Cuba this week ó but was spotted by the U.S. Coast Guard and sunk.
The Coast Guard first spotted the converted powder-blue vehicle about 20 miles off Key West on Tuesday after the group of 13 Cubans sailed their makeshift boat across the Florida Straits, according to WTVJ- NBC 6.
Rafael Diaz, his wife and two children were among those intercepted at sea, failing to reach U.S. soil, relatives in South Florida told the television station.
The relatives said it was Diaz’ third attempt to leave Cuba and that he was aboard an earlier unsuccessful attempt to reach the U.S. on a 1951 Chevy pickup that had been converted into a boat, WTVJ reported.
A Coast Guard spokesman confirmed Wednesday that an “aqua-taxi” had been sunk as a hazard to navigation, but offered no further details.
“U.S. policy prohibits me from discussing the details of an ongoing migrant interdiction case.” said the spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil. Only once the final disposition of the incident is resolved will the agency discuss it, he said.
In 2003, a group of migrants tried to cross the Florida Straits aboard a bright green 1951 Chevy pickup, which a Cuban named Luis Grass had converted into a boat. They were intercepted by the Coast Guard and sent back to Cuba. The Coast Guard then sank the Chevy-boat.
In February 2004, Grass made a second attempt to get to the United States illegally ó this time aboard a Buick sedan powering another homemade barge. Grass and his family had more success sticking to land: on March 12 they entered the U.S. though the Texas-Mexico border and were allowed to stay.
Under the U.S.‘s wet-foot, dry-foot policy towards Cuban refugees, those who reach U.S. soil are allowed into the country. Those intercepted at sea are treated as refugees from any other nation who, in order to be admitted to the U.S., must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution upon return to their homeland.