Cuban woman dies on migrant boat off Florida Keys

A migrant vessel floats about 12 miles south of the Middle Florida Keys city of Marathon, Sunday, June 26, 2022. A woman was found dead on another migrant boat the Coast Guard stopped off Key West Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

A migrant vessel floats about 12 miles south of the Middle Florida Keys city of Marathon, Sunday, June 26, 2022. A woman was found dead on another migrant boat the Coast Guard stopped off Key West Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

A woman from Cuba died last week after suffering an injury on a migrant boat the US Coast Guard found at sea off the Florida Keys.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the woman as Madely Gamboa Rios. Her date of birth was not known, but Tiffany Fridley, director of operations for the medical examiner, said she was born in 1973, making her either 48 or 49 years old.

Gamboa Rios’ autopsy was pending toxicology results Wednesday evening, but Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Miami-based Cuban exile group Democracy Movement, said she was struck in the leg by the homemade migrant boat’s propeller shaft, which broke sometime during the dangerous journey .

“She bled to death on the way here,” Sánchez said.

Sánchez worked with local authorities to help locate the woman’s family in Cuba, who live in Caimito, a municipality in the Artemisa province.

Gamboa Rios has family in South Florida, and they are trying to raise enough money to send her body back to Cuba for burial. Most funeral homes in Miami charge up to $8,500 to transport deceased people back to the island nation, Sánchez said.

“Most of these people are poor. They’re working people. Many have just arrived. They don’t have that kind of money,” he said.

The Coast Guard stopped the boat on which Gamboa Rios was a passenger about 70 miles off Key West on June 21, said Petty Officer Nicole Groll, a Coast Guard spokeswoman. Groll said she could not provide details about Gamboa Rios’ death, only that a person among several on board the vessel was “unconscious” when it was stopped.

The Coast Guard is dealing with the largest exodus of Cuban migrants en route to South Florida in more than six years. Since the beginning of October, 3,016 people from Cuba have been stopped at sea along the Florida Straits.

To put that number in perspective, the Coast Guard intercepted just 49 people between Cuba and Florida over the course of the 2020 fiscal year, a time period running from Oct. 1 to the end of September every calendar year.

The recent surge is driven by a deteriorating economic and political climate within the communist country.

On Monday alone, a Coast Guard cutter returned 106 people to Cuba who were intercepted during several different incidents off the Keys last week.

“We urge people not to take to the sea in unseaworthy vessels,” Lt. Travis Poulos, from Coast Guard District Seven, said in a statement Wednesday. “Navigating the seas in unseaworthy vessels is extremely dangerous and can lead to loss of life.”

More people also are leaving Haiti by boat than have since the early 2000swith the Coast Guard reporting Wednesday that it’s interdicted 6,114 people from that country since Oct. 1.

This story was originally published June 29, 2022 6:31 PM.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, DC He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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