The U.S. Coast Guard found the body of a suspected migrant and rescued another about seven miles southwest of Key Biscayne on Monday afternoon.
Deborah Cary and her husband, who live in Stuart, Fla. and were en route back there after a weekend in South Florida, said they came across a man aboard a homemade raft made of inner tubes in Biscayne Bay at about 12:30 p.m. Monday.
At first, the two thought the man was a flag-less diver but when they got closer, they realized what they thought was a wet suit was the inner tubes.
"He was in bad shape. He could barely raise his head or his hand up off the inner tubes," said Cary. "He kept motioning to his mouth so I thought he was thirsty so I threw him a bottle of water...I also made him a tuna fish sandwich, put it in a ziplock bag and threw it over to him."
Cary and her husband then called the Coast Guard, who cautioned them not to bring the man aboard. They stayed with the man until rescue arrived.
The 42-year-old man who was rescued was taken to Mercy Hospital in critical condition, said Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Ignatius Carroll. The rescued man, believed to be from Cuba, told the Coast Guard that three others -- including the man whose body was found -- may have drowned during their journey through the Florida Straits.
"He looked like somebody that had been at sea for six days," said Miami Fire Rescue Lt. James Harrison. "He had a tremendous amount of sores on both his lower extremities, he was extremely dehydrated, his skin was extremely modeled, but he was conscious and alert."
"He thought that he probably wasn't going to make it but we also found out that today is his birthday, so he is overjoyed that he was located," added Carroll.
The Coast Guard cutter Richard Etheridge will remain on scene throughout the night.
An air search for the migrants will begin again at first light.