KEY WEST, Fla. -- Amid flashing cameras, they walked or were carried onto U.S. soil from a Coast Guard cutter in the dark of night but showed little emotion after two days at sea.
The remaining eight Cuban survivors of a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico were taken early Thursday at a Key West hospital, joining a ninth survivor airlifted there Tuesday night who has already received permission to stay in the United States.
A 10th person died when the plane went down Tuesday about 50 miles west of Cuba.
"Thank God they're well," said Carlos Rodriguez, the brother-in-law of Liliana Ponzoa, 36, who was brought to the hospital on a stretcher. "We're extremely emotional."
Ponzoa, who suffered cuts and lacerations to her hands and legs, was admitted to Florida Lower Keys Hospital, nursing supervisor Rachel Long said. The other seven -- two women, two men and three children -- were evaluated and then released Thursday morning, leaving with officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, she said.
The INS had said earlier that the men would be taken to Krome Detention Center in Miami, and the women and children would be taken to a hotel under guard.
"We were worried that she wouldn't be allowed into the United States," Sandra Ponzoa, sister of Liliana, said earlier. "We imagined with the ordeal they went through, it would be very hard to send them back."
U.S. law lets Cubans apply for residency if they reach U.S. soil. Ordinarily, those who are picked up at sea are returned to Cuba, but the survivors were brought ashore because of their medical conditions, Coast Guard spokesman Marc Woodring said. In the past, Cuban refugees found at sea and brought to the United States for medical treatment have generally been allowed to stay.
Ponzoa's husband, Rodolfo Fuentes, 36, was the survivor airlifted to the hospital earlier, suffering head and neck injuries. He was described as in stable condition and doing well.
He has been interviewed and is eligible to stay in the United States, the INS said. INS officials in Miami refused to elaborate about the status of the rest.
"Not until an INS officer has an opportunity to speak with them will a determination be made as to what their status will be," INS spokeswoman Patricia Mancha said.
The body of the dead man was taken to the medical examiner for an autopsy. Hospital officials Thursday identified him as Yudel Puig, believed to be 24.
The INS declined to release the names of the survivors. Besides Fuentes and Ponzoa, family members identified them as the couple's 6-year-old son, Andy Fuentes; Puig's brother, Pavel, 28; Jacquelin Viera, 28; Lenin Iglesias Hernandez, identified as the pilot; his wife, Mercedes Martinez, 34; and their sons Erik, 13, and Danny, 7.
Fuentes' brother, Rafael Fuentes, 30, of Miami, said he talked to Rodolfo in the hospital Wednesday.
"The escape ... was planned way before," he said. "The bad part is that the pilot got lost. They were flying over the sea, when you don't see land after three hours, you get worried. The pilot realized he was running out of fuel so he stopped looking for land and started looking for a boat. They made four or five passes over the ship, they landed the plane next to the ship."
The FBI said Wednesday the Cuban plane doesn't appear to have been hijacked, as Cuban officials said the pilot had reported. The agency is withholding a final determination until it questions the survivors.
Once the FBI determines whether the plane was hijacked or flown from Cuba voluntarily, immigration officials will be able to determine if the survivors should qualify for asylum in the United States.
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