Mystery raft prompts search-and-rescue mission in Brevard

18-foot vessel pulled ashore at Floridana Beach

A raft is pulled ashore in Brevard County.
A raft is pulled ashore in Brevard County. (Florida Today)

FLORIDANA BEACH, Fla. – A mystery raft that was spotted off the Brevard Coast has prompted a search for its possible occupants.

Steve and Shelby Crouse were having coffee on their beachfront back porch on Floridana Beach about 8 a.m. when they spotted the raft. Steve was able to help two other men yank the water-logged raft to shore, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

The 18-foot vessel is made of a wood frame and what appears to be spray foam insulation used to create floatation devices. "Hecho in Cuba," made in Cuba, is printed on an indistinguishable piece of debris. A metal mast, that officials say at one time might have held a sail, slants from the shipwreck.

Among the items in the raft: 

  • 21 clouded-plastic bottles; 13 still filled with water. 
  • About 40 syringes and packs of medical tubing, wrapped in blue plastic labeled "MEDICUBA."
  • A child's shoe. A woman's bra. A hairbrush. A Bible printed in Spanish. A crushed carton of "long life" Tropical Island apple juice. A soggy potato.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were searching the ocean offshore in a boat and helicopters in what was called "search and rescue" mission for any people, an FWC officer said.

The county will be liable to remove the wreckage, which is beached on the sand across State Road A1A from Marks Landing Place in the South Beaches.

Brevard County sheriff's Deputy Chris Hendrix removed potentially dangerous items from the boat Monday morning, particularly the medical supplies. He issued a caution to passersby who stopped with curious looks.

"For your own safety, don't touch it," he said, concerned about the possibility of disease the raft might carry. He marked it in yellow spray paint: "Checked sheriff 4-14-14" so people know it's been reported.

The Crouses have a pile of debris from the raft near their home, including a cooler made of Styrofoam wrapped in tape, a half-full plastic gas can and an oar made of wood and metal handle.

They worry about the occupants of the raft.

"It's disturbing to see. It's also something that, that they would risk their lives to come here," Shelby Crouse said.  "We hope to God they made it. ... Who knows if we'll ever find out."