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CNN Today

Survivor of Crashed Cuban Plane Hospitalized in Florida

Aired September 20, 2000 - 2:06 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are still waiting for answers about the mysterious flight of a Cuban plane that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

FBI agents say they have spoken to one of the nine survivors. The others are on a merchant ship headed for Florida with the Coast Guard alongside.

Waiting for them in Key West, CNN's Mark Potter.

Mark, what's the latest?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, 36-year-old Rodolfo Fuentes (ph) is here at a hospital near Key West. He is one of the survivors, he is the lone survivor to be brought to the U.S. for treatment.

He's currently in intensive care, but we're told that he's actually doing pretty well, considering what he went through yesterday. He survived a plane crash at sea. He's described as having a mild concussion, a cut on his head and a sore neck. He will be kept here for observation probably for another couple of days or so.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard continues with its plans to transfer the eight other survivors -- the plane crash survivors -- from the freighter Chios Dream, which picked up the survivors yesterday, to a Coast Guard Cutter. That, likely, will happen tonight, hopefully when the seas calm down a little bit.

Yesterday the freighter was assisted by a Carnival Cruise Ship, the Tropical, which came nearby and sent a doctor onboard to treat the injured. Beside Fuentes, two women who survived that crash suffered minor injuries.

Back here in Key West, meanwhile, Fuentes has been meeting in the -- this medical center behind me, the Lower Keys Medical Center, with both a lawyer and with people from the FBI; and a meeting with federal officials was, indeed, confirmed today by the hospital CEO.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON BIERMAN, HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATOR: Our primary goal, as Dr. Bannon (ph) alluded to, is to ensure that he gets rest, proper medical treatment; and he's in the intensive care unit here and doing very well and is quite stable at this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now, after the eight other survivors are transferred from the freighter to the Coast Guard Cutter they will be interviewed by the FBI and by the INS, and the usual procedure is that, if any of these Cuban nationals ask for political asylum and then convince the investigator that they have a credible fear of persecution if they return to Cuba, then they would be transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for further processing. Those who fail to show credible fear, typically, would be repatriated to Cuba.

Another point: Yesterday the Cuban authorities described this as a hijacking -- what we're hearing here is that many people seem to doubt that account, and that would seem to include some U.S. authorities.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: Yes, Mark, more about that right now.

Cuban authorities have told CNN that the pilot landed at a remote air strip on the western part of the island, told his flight engineers to wait for him, then disappeared with the plane. Relatives tell CNN they believed his wife and two sons were aboard the plane and they know of no plans the pilot had of leaving Cuba.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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