Shark Week tells horror story of Eliecer Castillo and Cuban refugees hunted by sharks on bloody crossing
Eliecer Castillo, a Cuban exile and former heavyweight boxing champion, has never really understood what the excitement and thrill of Discovery Channel's 'Shark Week' is all about. “I get goose bumps whenever I see anything with sharks and turn it right off,” he once told The New York Times.
In 1994, the Cuban boxer and his four companions, including his two brothers, tied an inner tube to a canvas raft and paddled north into the Gulf Stream as part of a small fleet of similar floating devices crammed with similarly desperate Cubans trying to escape Fidel Castro's communist regime.
Sharm el-Sheikh shark attack: Two women were killed by a 'SEX-CRAZED' shark!
‘Shark Week’: SCARY footage shows expert diver narrowly escape jaws of a GREAT WHITE
The makeshift rafts were circled by sharks within hours. Castillo spent five days at sea as the current drove the shambolic flotilla away from the United States. He recalled seeing other rafts in his immediate vicinity sink and disintegrate in the tidal onslaught. The sharks would wait patiently and dive in at the right moment. As his fellow rafters called for assistance, Castillo saw the water begin to foam white, then red.
“Getting attacked by a shark just might be the scariest event in nature!” gasped a Discovery Channel narrator during 'Shark Week' a few years ago. “Australia recorded 56 fatal shark attacks between 1956 and 2008!” he gasped again. “Find out what it’s like from people who’ve lived to tell the tale!” New York Post carried the statement.
For Castillo, however, shark movies only bring up memories of his attempt to flee Cuba that almost turned fatal, besides going awry. They drifted 86 miles away from Cuba without paddles or other navigational aids, but they never made it to Miami.
They were rescued by the Coast Guard, who then transported them to a detention facility at the American naval base in Guantanamo Bay. Castillo stayed there for 14 months before being given asylum in the United States. According to Matt Lawrence, who spent years flying over the Florida Straits saving stranded Cuban rafters, "the straits certainly record 56 deadly shark attacks every few years."
Who is Eliecer Castillo?
Eliecer Castillo is a Cuban professional boxer in the heavyweight division. He was 24 when he built his own float to freedom by carrying only the clothes on his back and some water, along with his brothers Eliseo and Eliades, a fellow boxer, and two other friends. The group was given permission to immigrate to the United States after 18 months of processing. Later, he relocated to Miami, Florida. Castillo defeated Kerry Parks via first-round TKO on February 20, 1996, in Miami to make his professional boxing debut.