SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez rescued 34 Haitians Monday, who were left abandoned by smugglers on the rocky cliffs of Monito Island, Puerto Rico.
The rescue was part of ongoing multi-agency efforts in support of Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).
Coast Guard watchstanders in San Juan, Puerto Rico received a communication from Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Park Rangers of possible people stranded on the uninhabited natural reserve of Monito Cay, which is located just off Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Following the report, the aircrew of a Coast Guard Ocean Sentry aircraft confirmed seeing multiple campfires on Monito. The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez diverted to investigate and located the group of people stranded on Monito.
During daylight, the cutter Heriberto Hernandez launched the cutter small boat to approach Monito as the group made their way down to the lowest point of the rocky cliff. Conditions on scene were reported to be 10 to 15-foot swells. Once the cutter small boat was in position, each person on the cliff took their turn jumping into the water from where they were safely recovered by the small boat crew.
“The crew did an incredible job perfectly executing a high-risk five-hour rescue that saved 34 persons abandoned on Monito.” said Lt. Robert Renfrow, Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez commanding officer. “This case is concrete proof smugglers are more than willing to abandon people in very austere and highly dangerous environments like Monito.”
Once onboard cutter Heriberto Hernandez, the group was provided food, water, and basic medical care. The survivors, 26 men, seven women and one male minor, were transferred to Ramey Sector US Border Patrol agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.