by Marcelo Fernandez-Zayas

When the Catholic Church looks into alleged miracles, investigators do everything possible to find other explanations. In the case of Elian Gonzalez we have to believe that we are witnessing a miracle of physical survival or a rescue from dangerous waters that leaves some serious questions unanswered.

Let's examine the case. Elian left Cuba on November 22, 1999 in the company of his mother and others. That day the overloaded boat they were using sank in the waters of the Strait of Florida. According to two survivors of the trip, Elian's mother held on to the boy after the boat sank while holding onto floating debris. The mother disappeared in the waters and Elian was found in an inner automobile tube.

Elian was rescued from the waters by two men that were fishing nearby on November 25, 1999. This is a short version of the story. The doctors who examined Elian in the Miami hospital, according to the press, noted that the boy's condition indicated he had been in the water for less than 24 hours. However, it would appear that Elian was in the water closer to 50 hours if we calculate the time between the boat sinking and the boy's rescue.

Up to here, I can say that we should address the hospital physician for more information on his assessment of the boy's exposure time, since it is known that Elian left Cuba via "bote," on November 22 and was rescued November 25. So the doctor or doctors involved in the case will explain why they said less than 24 hours.

If Elian was in the water for more than 24 hours he should show the effects of one day under the sun, with burns on his face and arms. Of course, the severity of sunburn would depend on cloud cover during daylight hours. If he was in the water for 50 hours, he would have two daylight sessions under the sun. Many shipwreck survivors with this much sun exposure have burns serious enough to require medical treatment.

The effect of dehydration on Elian's young body. I understand that sometimes the very young cope better than adults in shipwreck and starvation situations - often to the amazement of medical professionals. I am not a doctor, but it would be interesting to hear the opinions of qualified specialists about this case. Were there elements of a miracle in Elian's survival, or is he just a very tough youngster who beat the medical laws of averages?

The two fishermen who found Elian said that he was holding on to an inner tube. How long can a five-year-old child (or any person in the water) hold on to an inner tube? This is hard to estimate, but it is difficult to imagine how the little arms and hands of a small child could hold fast to an inner tube for a long time. Did it require a miracle to keep Elian afloat?

Before talking about miracles, lets talk again to fishermen, law enforcement personnel, marine survival experts and medical specialists to get the story together. I believe that some research would throw helpful light on this unfortunate saga.


Marcelo Fernandez-Zayas

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