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Coast Guard interviews rafters rescued by 2 cruise ships

By Melissa Gray, CNN
updated 8:20 AM EDT, Mon April 15, 2013
The Disney Wonder picked up eight people stranded on a raft about 45 miles from Key West.
The Disney Wonder picked up eight people stranded on a raft about 45 miles from Key West.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cruise ships pick up people on two rafts off Florida this week
  • At least some of the rafters may be Cuban
  • Coast Guard is holding the rafters until interviews are complete

(CNN) -- The U.S. Coast Guard is interviewing 21 people picked up by two cruise ships off Florida this week to determine their nationalities and whether they should be sent home, a spokesman said Saturday.

The rafters are in Coast Guard custody, Petty Officer Mark Barney said.

He would not disclose their countries of origin, though one of the ships involved in the rescue, the Carnival Conquest, said the 13 people it picked up are Cuban.

The first rescue happened Thursday afternoon, when the Disney Wonder cruise ship picked up eight people on a raft about 45 miles from Key West, the cruise line said.

iReporter captures photos of rafters prior to rescue

A picture of the rescue taken by a Turner Broadcasting employee aboard the ship showed a boxy wooden vessel with a makeshift sail next to the ship as the rafters were helped aboard.

Disney said the ship acted at the request of the Coast Guard to rescue the rafters. It did not give the nationalities of the eight, who were given medical attention, food and water once aboard.

The ship was in the middle of a five-night cruise, a spokeswoman said.

The second rescue was Friday afternoon in the same area, about 40 miles from Key West. Carnival said its ship spotted the raft and coordinated with the Coast Guard to take them aboard and give them food, water and medical treatment.

"We are happy to have come to the aid of these individuals and to support the long-established tradition among the global maritime community of providing assistance to mariners in distress," Carnival President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a statement.

The Conquest was on the last leg of a seven-day trip, the cruise line said.

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