Tamayo raced from Miami to Fishermen's Hospital in Marathon late Thursday to see her. ``The uncertainty of these two weeks has been difficult,'' Tamayo said that evening. He hadn't seen his daughter and her mother since he left Cuba on a raft several years ago.
At the hospital, he was unable to see the girl. INS officials were interviewing the rafters. They promised he would get to see them soon.
But that night, he learned Idianis was not at the hospital after all. She had died on Dog Rocks, the desolate Bahamian islet in the Florida Straits where the rafters spent two weeks. Her stepsister, Camila, 4, had suffered the same fate. Also buried in a shallow grave: Leonel Ojeda Rivas, 26, the rafters' relatives said.
Tamayo spent most of Friday at the hospital keeping vigil with his ex-wife, Magaly Rodriguez Molina, and her surviving daughters, Patricia, 8, and Maria de Jesus, 7.
They were among 14 rafters who said they left Isabela de Sagua on April 29 aboard a 20-foot sailboat with a gas motor. Two days into the voyage, they landed on one of Cay Sal Bank's rocky islets. Coast Guard officials don't know what happened to their boat; none was seen at the island.
Two men left Tuesday night on a makeshift raft in search of help. They haven't been seen since. Most others managed to survive on snails and birds until Brothers to the Rescue pilots spotted them Thursday morning and called the Coast Guard. A helicopter took three women and three children to Marathon for treatment, and three others were taken aboard a Coast Guard cutter.
Clinton administration officials in Washington said Friday that all the refugees would be allowed to remain in the United States. Those aboard the cutter -- Rolando Martinez Montoya, Marcel Torres and Yanarra Santos -- arrived in Key West Friday afternoon and were turned over to INS.
``It is my understanding that one person on the cutter had visas to enter the United States, but did not have permits to leave Cuba,'' said a State Department spokesman who asked not to be identified.
The 17-year-old girl aboard the cutter was brought to shore for humanitarian reasons, since Bahamian officials had no provisions to deal with unaccompanied minors, the spokesman said.
``Thank God . . .,'' said Ana Rodriguez, cousin of Yuriana Lara Alemán, who was recovering Friday at Fishermen's Hospital. ``That gives us a bit of peace of mind. At least we don't have to worry about them going back to Cuba. We are thankful the U.S. government didn't hesitate and allowed them to come here.''
For those who survived the odyssey, Friday was a day of mixed feelings: They had made it, but others had perished along the way. Family members visited them in the hospital, offering hugs, kisses, assurances of love and joy.
``It was pretty emotional,'' said Rick Shrader, associate director of Fishermen's Hospital. ``A lot of it was the ladies recounting the story. . . . `We all came and these people didn't make it.' ''
And two were still missing. An extensive air search for the pair, who fellow rafters said left Dog Rocks on Tuesday aboard a makeshift raft, had turned up nothing by late Friday. Coast Guard officials in Miami were debating whether to continue the search.
``We have searched over 10,000 square miles. That is four times the size of Dade and Broward counties,'' said Marc Woodring, Coast Guard spokesman. ``We have looked long and hard for them.''
The six refugees at Fishermen's Hospital -- three women and three girls -- were still recuperating from second- and third-degree burns and severe dehydration, hospital officials said.
They spent Friday hooked to IVs, ate their first real meals since leaving Cuba and watched Spanish-language cartoons. They spoke with counselors from a local guidance clinic brought in to help them cope with the loss of their loved ones. A Brothers to the Rescue volunteer visited with them and gave them 10 T-shirts emblazoned with the organization's logo.
Hospital staffers bought the refugees toothbrushes and outfits. Employees raised about $300. The hospital received some 30 calls with offers to donate clothes and money.
``The hardest thing to do was to figure out their shoe sizes,'' Shrader said. ``We couldn't tell they weren't all kids because they were so small.''
Copyright © 1997 The Miami Herald
Copyright © 1997 The Miami Herald