BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge woman says she’s breathing easier Sunday afternoon after the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship she was traveling on was able to rescue 23 people stranded on open water for nearly a week.
Charlotte Gouvier, 35, says she and other guest rushed out to the deck during the early hours of Sunday, April 14, after being informed they’d been rerouted to assist with a rescue while returning from Cozumel, Mexico.
“We saw the Coast Guard plane flying in circles over an area. We thought we must be looking for bodies or signs of wreckage because no one could see a boat anywhere,” Gouvier said. “I was really sad because we couldn’t see a boat at all. We just kept looking for orange life jackets. Many of us feared the worst.”
Grouvier says, eventually, a small white boat could be seen in the distance. People on that boat were using an object to “flash” at the Carnival Fantasy and signal for help. That small sign of life was a welcome sight for the Carnival Fantasy’s guest.
“When the little boat finally appeared everyone on the deck was overjoyed. People were cheering,” Grouvier said. “The boat looked like it was just being tossed around in the sea, and we couldn’t imagine how sea sick those poor people must have been after spending so long on that boat.”
The Coast Guard says the rescue happened around 130 nautical miles off the Yucatan Peninsula after they received a report around 1:15 a.m. saying 23 were stranded on a disabled vessel.
Investigators learned 22 Cuban nationals lost power while traveling from Cuba to Mexico on a wooden boat. The group was stranded for three days.
They were later noticed by a Cuban-Mexican national who took all 22 individuals aboard his boat. That boat also malfunctioned afterwards, stranding the group for an additional 3 days.
The Carnival Fantasy arrived on scene and brought the individuals on board around 10:47 a.m Sunday. Two individuals had minor medical issues that were treated by the cruise ship’s medical staff.
The 23 individuals will be transferred to Customs and Border Protection and Coast Guard Investigative Services in Mobile, Alabama, Tuesday morning.