The vessel used to transport 15 refugees from Cuba to the Florida Keys. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

On Jan. 4, a chug carrying 15 Cuban immigrants reached the shores of Marathon near the Sunrise Isle area of Sombrero Beach Road. Although all 15 migrants were soon detained by authorities, there was an initial belief that a few of the migrants had traveled across Man-O-War Drive and entered the mangroves surrounding Marathon Middle and High School. 

In response, the school underwent a temporary precautionary lockdown to allow officials to search the area. “Our students are not in harm’s way,” said principal Wendy McPherson in a memo to parents. “Classes are being held in place until law enforcement has found all of the individuals. We expect the situation to be resolved soon.”

After reviewing footage taken by residents in the Sombrero Beach Road area, it was eventually determined that all migrants known to have come ashore were accounted for, and the lockdown was released shortly thereafter.

Screenshots captured from videos taken by Man-O-War Drive residents show migrants swimming to shore through canals near Sombrero Beach Road after the engine in their craft began to fail. PAUL CARTER/Contributed.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.