Deaths of 7 Cuban migrants linked to Hurricane Ian, Keys medical examiner confirms

Petty Officer 3rd Class Riley Perkofski/U.S. Coast Guard District 8

The deaths of seven “suspected” Cuban migrants, whose bodies began emerging near the Florida Keys last week as Hurricane Ian hit the area with destructive winds, are related to the storm, according to the Monroe County Medical Examiner.

“We have had 7 deaths — all suspected migrants from a boat that sank during Hurricane Ian,” Tiffany Fridley, District 16 Medical Examiner Office’s director of operations, told the Miami Herald in an email Wednesday. “They are all considered storm-related deaths and have been reported to the state.”

Their cause of death is still under investigation, Fridley said. The group consisted of six women and one man, with ages ranging from 19 to 35.

On Sept. 28 — the day Ian made landfall — four people swam to shore at Stock Island, just east of Key West, and they told authorities that 23 others were missing, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Crews rescued three more people later that day, and the U.S. Border Patrol located another person from the group alive the next day.

Since then, seven bodies have been spotted in the same area near the Keys, including two women found Monday and Tuesday in Boca Chica. On Saturday, authorities found the bodies of three women in mangroves near Naval Air Station Key West, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Florida’s Medical Examiners Commission has confirmed the causes of 89 storm-related deaths as of Wednesday.

Miami Herald staff writers David Goodhue and David Neal contributed to this report.