Lone Survivor Rescued from Bimini Migrant Passage Details Horrific Ordeal
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Twenty-two-year-old Columbian native, Juan Esteban is the sole survivor of the human smuggling ordeal where all of the passengers died during the passage from Bimini to Florida.
Thirty-nine people died in Florida waters on their way from Bimini when the boat capsized.
Esteban described the horrific ordeal on Tuesday at a press conference in Miami where he was reunited with his mother after 11 years.
Esteban said he made the trip with his sister María Camila, who also perished because they were promised that the route –flying into the Bahamas where no visa is required then two short boat rides to Florida, was easier and less dangerous than the Mexico transit.
The Bimini passage to Florida is becoming a popular transit point for human smuggling. In recent times, boats that traversed the route have capsized with missing passengers who have not been recovered.
Of the 39 passengers, authorities found five bodies, but not María Camila.
Juan Esteban said, “They tell you, you’ll be in Miami in three, four hours… It’s all a lie.”
Immigration officials did not detain Esteban but permitted him to join his mother where he will seek political asylum.
He did not say how much he paid for the journey which he said included people from Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. He said one woman held a baby girl.
“That seemed bad to me, but I had such a desire to get to the country,” Esteban said.
When the boat capsized, he said, one by one, those left in the water began drifting away from the vessel, some dying, others so exhausted they didn’t have the strength to hold on any longer, he said.
By early Monday evening, nearly two days after departing, he was alone.
Dehydrated, he was found by a tugboat that spotted him atop the capsized vessel. He was rescued, hospitalized, and released to the care of his mother.