Survivor of Human Smuggling Boat Speaks About the Journey’s Fight for Survival

Tags: Currents Colombia, Family, Florida, Media, migrants, Migration, World News

Currents News Staff

Juan Esteban Montoya is out of the hospital after being dehydrated and disoriented. The 22-year-old was clinging to a capsized boat after setting off from the Bahamas last Saturday hoping to reach Florida.

For the first time, Juan detailed the journey and his fight to survive. Thirty-nine others, including his younger sister, Maria, were onboard the migrant voyage.

He says three hours in, the boat’s engine stopped.

“We ended up in high seas floating,” Juan said. “Those waves started to come over the boat and we started to sink.”

Juan says everyone tried to hold on to the boat, but it was impossible.

“In that case, my sister,” he said. “It hurts me a lot. because I tried to find the strength to help her, ever since the boat turned over.”

Juan and his 18-year-old sister Maria were trying to reunite with their mother in Texas, but Maria didn’t make it. Juan says everyone was grabbing onto everyone and that’s why she went under and eventually, he was the only one left.

“When I ended up alone, it was more difficult. much harder because my health was bad at that point. Mentally, i was bad. and being alone it was another hit,” Juan said.

His attorney Naimeh Salem says he will now ask the U.S. government for asylum.

Juan didn’t get the names of the good samaritans who found him floating in the water three days later, but he calls them angels.

“Imagine what happened to me was something disastrous, and it is something that i do not wish upon anyone,” Juan said. “Do not do the journey this way especially with family members or loved ones because you may lose them, just like I did with my sister. It is something very heartbreaking.”

Juan’s lawyer says the fight for him to seek asylum could take years– especially with the backlog of immigration cases. She is now seeking humanitarian parole so he can be released to his mother.