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Capsize survivors threaten federal lawsuit

NOV. 11 -- Relatives of two Cuban women who drowned recently say they hold the U.S. Coast Guard responsible for the deaths, and are considering filing a lawsuit. The boat the women, 60 year-old Luisa Cardentey, and Isabel Menendez, 75, were passengers on capsized 65 miles south of Key West, Fla.

“I think they could have done something else,” 17-year-old Days Yero, another passenger, says in a news report. “Because in that moment it took them a long time to get into that water and get my grandmother and my aunt out.”

At about 6 p.m. Nov. 5, the crew of a Coast Guard helicopter spotted a 27-foot Hydra-Sports federal authorities believed was being used to smuggle Cuban migrants to the United States, a Coast Guard report says. The cutter Metompkin later arrived on the scene and its crew noticed the boat was taking on water and had 37 people on board. A rescue boat was launched and its crew handed out PFDs to all the passengers.

The crew of the rescue boat removed 15 people from the Hydra-Sports and transported them to the Metompkin, the report says. Before the crew could return, the Hydra-Sports capsized and the remaining passengers were thrown into the water. Cardentey and Menendez were not found until after 1 a.m. Nov. 6 when the boat was righted.

Family members say they told the Coast Guard that the women were missing immediately after the accident.

On Oct. 13, six-year-old Julian Villasuo drowned off the Keys in an unrelated incident when the Coast Guard gave chase and intercepted the boat he was passenger on, which was reportedly being used to smuggle Cuban migrants.

— Jason Fell