TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sean Motta and nine friends sailed from Tampa to the Florida Keys for the holidays.
“We decided to spend New Year’s Eve there, so 10 of us on four different boats went down,” said Motta, who has sailed since the age of 7. “It was a great trip. We had perfect weather down, beautiful sail down.”
While they were in the Dry Tortugas, the group witnessed boat after boat, packed with Cuban refugees landing on shore.
“We saw most of them make landfall. So, the Garden Key is the main Key there and then Loggerhead is a couple of miles away and we watched over a dozen rafts make landfall,” Motta said.
He was struck by how hard park rangers worked to handle the situation.
“The National Park Service just did the most fantastic job you could possibly imagine. They were bringing the people ashore, they gave them all basic medical, they had food and water for each of them, they were providing them food, looking after them,” Motta added.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey said his agency was seeing a migrant landing every week or two, but now they are seeing two or three landings a day.
The Sheriff said his agency is overwhelmed, “There doesn’t seem to be a plan from the federal government. If I asked, I’m sure that they would say they have a plan but we would like to see it and they have it. It doesn’t seem to be working in this environment.”
Emily Wagner was part of the group sailing out of Tampa.
She said she noticed how many people were packed onto small boats to make the dangerous crossing from Cuba to the Keys.
“So you just sort of think that it must be their situation to undertake that risk,” Wagner said.