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Exile Flotilla Turned Back By Stormy Seas, One Dies When Boat Sinks

September 2, 1995

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) _ One of 25 boats carrying Cuban exiles to a demonstration off the coast of their homeland sank today in the stormy Florida Straits, dumping dozens of people into the water. One person died.

Seas were running 6 feet high when the shrimp boat Sundown Two went down about 10 miles south of Key West.

The surviving 47 passengers of the 42-foot boat were floating in life jackets amid the craft’s scattered wreckage.

Another flotilla boat helped pick up survivors from the water and the Coast Guard was on hand with two boats and two helicopters, said Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Luis Diaz.

``It was scary. We were in the water with no visual help for about 45 minutes to an hour,″ said George Acosta, one of those on the Sundown Two. ``It was an old boat. We probably could have made a better choice but there were no more boats here.″

Diaz said the the boat sank within 20 minutes after the crew radioed that it was taking on water.

The rest of the flotilla headed back to where the boat sank to regroup. It was unclear if they would resume their voyage to the 12-mile limit off Havana, their intended destination.

The dead person, who was hoisted from the water by one of the helicopters, suffered from a heart condition, Diaz said.

``Everybody is getting hurt by this, and nobody should be hurt over this,″ said Milady Sanchez, a Cuban exile helping coordinate the flotilla.

She said the Sundown Two may have been overloaded, adding: ``If it is a matter because they had too many people on the boat, it is because they want to unite together and everybody wanted to go at the same time.″