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Cuban Risks Freezing To Death To Immigrate

November 15, 1986

MIAMI (AP) _ A former Cuban sailor who flew to the United States as a stowaway in the freezing nose of a Panamanian cargo plane said he wanted to come here after watching ″Miami Vice.″

Gabriel Pacheco, 35, was in good condition Friday after shivering through the 2 1/2 -hour flight from Panama. He was under observation in the hospital at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Krome Avenue detention center, said Perry Rivkind, Miami director of the INS.

Rivkind said Pacheco would likely go before an immigration judge within a week.

″He told me he watched ‘Miami Vice’ in Panama and he wanted to come to Miami,″ said Air Panama cargo supervisor Mario Marrero.

Pacheco was found hiding in the nose-wheel compartment of the 707 cargo plane early Friday by Air Panama personnel making routine maintenance checks after the flight arrived from Panama City.

The plane had reached altitudes of 39,000 feet during the 2 1/2 hour flight. A National Weather Service forecaster estimated the temperature at that altitude would be about minus 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rivkind said Pacheco, who was wearing ear muffs, a T-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes and a baseball cap, was probably saved from freezing to death by the meager amount of heat produced by electronic circuitry near his hiding place.

″It does ice up in there, but the heat radiated from the electronics may have saved his life,″ Rivkind said.

When discovered, Pacheco at first refused to come out, the Air Panama cargo supervisor said.

″He kept yelling ’don’t hit me, don’t hit me,‴ Marrero said. ″I think he thought he was in Cuba or still in Panama.″

Airline employees finally had to grab him by the leg and drag him out, Marrero said. ″He was shaking, freezing.″

Marrero said he called Panama City in an effort to find out how Pacheco slipped on to the plane, but no one there could explain it.

Pacheco is a former Cuban merchant sailor who jumped ship in Panama four years ago and had been given temporary entry papers for that country. He told Air Panama employees that he had been unable to work in Panama and decided to come to the United States, Rivkind said.

Pacheco told immigration officials he had aunts and uncles in the United States, but did not know where they were.

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