Family flees US over government interference in religion, gets lost at sea

By Greg Moore

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Aug. 11 2013 5:10 p.m. MDT

"We were in the thick of it, but we prayed," she said. "Being out on that boat, I just knew I was going to see some miracles."

They watched the surrounding storms disperse, and "next thing you know the sun is out. It's amazing."

Eventually, their boat was spotted by a helicopter that had taken off from a nearby Venezuelan fishing vessel, which ended up saving them.

"The captain said, 'Do you know where you're at? You're in the middle of nowhere,'" she said.

They were on the Venezuelan ship for about five days before transferring to the Japanese cargo ship, where they were for nearly three weeks before landing in Chile on Friday. The Chilean newspaper Las Ultimas Noticias reported the story of their arrival.

"They were looking for a kind of adventure. They wanted to live on a Polynesian island but they didn't have sufficient expertise to navigate adequately," police prefect Jose Luis Lopez, who took the family's statement in San Antonio, Chile, told the newspaper.

Sean Gastonguay's brother Jimmy, who lives in Arizona, said he had provided a description of the family's vessel to the U.S. Coast Guard and exchanged emails with them once they were picked up by the first boat.

"There was some concern, but we were hoping for the best, and they eventually popped up," he said. He was able to keep track of the family with the help of the Coast Guard as they were transferred from ship to ship.

"We're all happy. We have good peace of mind now," he said.

Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now "go back to Arizona" and "come up with a new plan."

Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.

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