Sole survivor discusses rescue from capsized boat off Florida

Juan Esteban Montoya, 22, says he was among 40 on boat

The sole survivor from a boat that capsized off the Florida coast with dozens of people onboard is sharing what he says led to a tragedy on the high seas.

Juan Esteban Montoya, 22, said he was among 40 people who set sail from the Bahamas over a week ago, hoping to reach the United States. Montoya said the engine shut down three hours into the trip and waves overtook the boat.

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Bimini is a small cluster of islands about 55 miles east of Miami and about 100 miles south of where Montoya was found. The capsized boat was apparently pushed north by the Gulf Stream, a warm, swift current that wraps around the Florida peninsula and flows north along the Atlantic Coast of the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

He held on for three days until he was rescued and rushed to the hospital.

“Imagine what happened to me was something disastrous, and it is something that I do not wish upon anyone,” he said in Spanish.

Montoya was treated for dehydration and released from the hospital. His sister was among the 39 people who vanished. The Coast Guard later found five bodies before suspending its search last week.

Coast Guard Capt. Jo-Ann F. Burdian said the decision to suspend the search was not an easy one.

“We have saturated the area over and over again,” she told a news conference. “We’ve had good visibility ... We’ve overflown the vessel a number of times. ... It does mean we don’t think it’s likely that anyone else has survived.”

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.