tiana López (7 months pregnant), Aracelio Garcia and his 5 year old son survived the tragedy. | GRACIELA SOLIS
Tatiana López (7 months pregnant), Aracelio Garcia and their 5 year old son survived the tragedy. It was Garcia’s cell phone call that alerted the first rescue boats | Photo: La Nacion, Graciela Solis

QCOSTARICA – Celebrating his 41st birthday, along with his pregnant wife and five-year old, became a nightmare for Aracelio Garcia, an American national living in Costa Rica.

It was also Garcia’s first call for help that saved lives.

Garcia told La Nacion that when the boat began to sink, he was able to make a cell phone call and ask for help from an employee, who works at the Los Sueños marina.

“I say, Pablo, I need you to call the marina and get all the boats out here because we’re sinking!”

On the other end of the line, Pablo Sandino asked his boss to stop kidding around, but Garcia replied: “No this is serious!” before the line went dead.

Garcia’s wife, Tatiana, said the event is etched in her memory. “Instantly the boat turned (listed). Some of us had time to put on life jackets, others not,” she recalled.

Garcia said his concern was to save his family. “I could not put on my life jacket. I was getting my son and wife and a boy who was lost calling his mother on the raft, I hung on to the side.”

Sixteen minutes after the call, Sanding was on the first boat to arrive with help.

“We found some 40 or 50 people floating. I have years of experience, I told the crew, let’s throw a rope and try to get the people out, but it was complicated, the waves were 2 metres (six feet) high. I did the impossible, everyone wanted help,” recalled Sandino after helping tens of shipwrecked to shore.

“With little English, I talked to people and got them on the board. Captain (Tenorio) told me he had two wounded in the raft, but when I got on the raft, I realized they were dead,” Sandino said in his account.

A merchant ship passing by gave the Maybay signal with the exact position.

Quickly Coastguard ships, Red Cross, Firefighters and two police helicopters were at the scene. All 106 passengers and crew were rescued.

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