(CNN) – The lone survivor of a boat Captured off the coast of Florida last week He told reporters at a news conference on Monday, he lost his sister at sea and spent horrific days fighting for survival.
Colombian national Juan Esteban Montoya, 22, was traveling with his sister, Maria Camila Montoya, 18, and about 38 other migrants from different countries. CNN in Spanish.
Montoya chose to make the trip to the US by boat because it was safer than traveling through Mexico and he and his sister wanted to be reunited with their US-based mother, who joined him at Monday’s press conference in Fort Pierce, Florida.
He said he was determined to stay until he could tell his parents what happened to his sister. “It hurts me, so, I miss her so much, because I gave all my energy when I had nothing, I’m looking for her,” he said, speaking in Spanish. “It was impossible to find.”
Hours after they left the Bahamas, he said, the boat capsized after its engine stopped working and waves crashed into the boat that filled it with water.
The last time Montoya saw his sister drowning was when the boat capsized.
As time passed, Montoya said, others who were hanging on the boat were slipping under the waves after losing their strength.
“Too little food, too little water, too little rest, it’s starting to affect you more,” he said.
“Isolation was another blow,” he said after finally becoming the last person left. “But I have not lost faith.”
The Good Samaritan said he saved Montoya on Tuesday.
“I was on the boat face-down when I heard something and felt the shock of a wave,” Montoya recounted. “There was a boat nearby, and I didn’t wave at them or point them out, they came to me and told me they would help me. They were angels, frankly.”
The US Coast Guard, which was searching for survivors, said the tugboat captain notified him that he had rescued a man clinging to a vessel that capsized 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Bay.
After he was found, the Coast Guard said in a press release, Montoya was taken to a local hospital for treatment for symptoms of dehydration and sun exposure. Montoya is currently applying for political asylum, according to his attorney, Naima Salem.
“These days were very difficult, very difficult because of my sister’s absence. The more days passed, the greater the feeling of absence. The pain is greater,” Montoya said.
The USCG searched for additional survivors in an area stretching from the Bahamas to Cape Canaveral but Search suspended After few days. Only five bodies were recovered. Authorities said the 25-foot-tall vessel was carrying at least 40 people when it capsized in Fort Pierce Bay.
Montoya told CNN that the passengers were from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas and Jamaica. He also said that an infant and several girls had attempted the journey.
While US Coast Guard officials suspect this was a smuggling operation, they have not commented on the nationalities of those on board. Homeland Security officials request any information that will lead to the arrest and prosecution of those involved in the flight and drowning.
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