ISLAMORADA, Florida. – The 48-year-old man who was stranded on a windsurfer off the Florida Keys is a Cuban father who is in desperate need of medical treatment, relatives have said. He ventured out to sea despite a colostomy bag.
A US Coast Guard crew rescued him on Wednesday about 15 miles south of Islamorada. Relatives identified him as Elian López, a trained scuba diving instructor and windsurfer from Varadero.
“He is in urgent need of medication, which is one of the reasons he desperately risked his life,” Dunia Rodriguez, his cousin, wrote in Spanish in a petition on Change.org, adding that the “system totalitarian “communist island” dragged Cubans through the worst of miseries.
Unlike most migrants who typically find themselves in crowded, ill-equipped rafts, López wore a life jacket, had a global positioning system and cellphones, according to the Coast Guard.
“He had some very necessary safety equipment to locate people,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Martin McAdams said.
Rodriguez said she was very surprised by what he did. She said he had undergone treatment for colon cancer in Cuba and needed to continue treatment with drugs that are not available in Cuba.
“The only ones who knew were his wife and daughter,” Rodriguez said, adding that he left them in Cuba. “If he sent her a message to say goodbye, it was because there was a moment when he didn’t know what was going to happen in his life.”
López’s wife called friends and family in Miami to tell them he was stranded at sea.
“We received the report around 3 p.m. from a family member,” McAdams said.
Alaydin Cabrera, her cousin, took to Facebook to ask the public for help with updates on her condition and whereabouts.
“He was very dehydrated and was taken to hospital,” Cabrera wrote in Spanish.
Cabrera and Rodriguez are among relatives making a public appeal to US immigration authorities. They want López to stay in the United States, so he can get the treatment he needs and eventually reunite with his wife and daughter.
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