MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) -- The 23 Cuban nationals rescued by crew members of the Carnival Fantasy and Coast Guard are being held by the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office.
The rescued boaters are being processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for expedited removal. Investigators said after questioning the castaways, there was no evidence of human smuggling.
The group was pulled from their disabled boat and onto the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship on Sunday. Earlier that morning, the Coast Guard received a call from a man, who is a Cuban national, who said his brother and 22 others were adrift on a disabled sport fisher. The boat was located about 130 miles offshore near the Yucatan Peninsula.
According to the Coast Guard, 22 Cuban nationals started their voyage from Cuba to Mexico on a wooden boat that eventually lost power. After drifting in the sea for three days, they were spotted by a Cuban-Mexican national who took all 22 people aboard his fishing boat. The engines on that vessel failed, and all 23 were adrift at sea for an additional three days.
A Coast Guard helicopter located the boat around 8:40 a.m., and the Coast Guard alerted the Carnival Fantasy. The Fantasy arrived on the scene around 10: 47 a.m. and brought the stranded boaters on board. Two people had minor medical issues that were treated by the cruise ship’s medical staff.
All 23 people were taken into Customs and Border Protection custody when the Fantasy returned to Mobile on Monday.