Tarpon Springs, Florida -- The six members of a diving crew who have been detained in Honduras since May 5 will be coming home.
According to the men's families, Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, the Aqua Quest crew -- Robert Mayne, James Kelly Garrett, Devon Butler, Nick Cook, Steve Matanich, and Michael Mayne -- were released after their case was dismissed.
The men were on a business trip to train a local tribe how to scuba dive and salvage mahogany logs from rivers to ease flooding when local authorities reportedly found several weapons, including an AK-47, on their vessel at an Honduran port. They were arrested and charged with smuggling weapons into the country.
The fiancee of one of the men jailed confirmed to 10 News the men did have weapons aboard but for their protection, not for trafficking.
"Maritime law says you're allowed to carry weapons upon your vessel as long as you check them when you get there," she said.
A salvage crew held in Honduras is on its way home, to the relief of relatives.
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, PA-8, had been advocating for the men's release since May writing letters to the Honduran government and the U.S. State Department.
Fitzpatrick even traveled to Honduras as recently as June 23 to meet with Honduran administrative and judicial officials. He also got to speak with the men in captivity and says he witnessed "deplorable conditions in which they were wrongfully held for two months."
In a statement released Thursday, he added, "United States Ambassador to Honduras [Lisa] Kubiske and her staff deserve recognition for their hard work, as do the countless American officials who came together to secure the release of these Americans."
Rosemary Carroll, the mother of crewmember Devon Butler, issued the following statement upon hearing the news of her son's release:
"On behalf of the families of the Aqua Quest crew, we are grateful to all who have supported us through this lengthy and difficult ordeal. I especially would like to thank Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, and his staff, for their relentless, diligent, and ultimately successful effort to free six innocent Americans."
Rep. Bilirakis released the following statement Thursday upon hearing the news of their release:
"I am so very pleased that the Aqua Quest crew - Robert Mayne, James Kelly Garrett, Devon Butler, Nick Cook, Steve Matanich, and Michael Mayne - will be coming home. The case against them was dismissed, and rightfully so. They traveled to Honduras to help people, and were wrongfully incarcerated in deplorable conditions. Their release, while long overdue, is a relief to all, especially their families and friends. These men deserve their freedom, and now, thankfully, they can return immediately to the waiting arms of their loved ones. I look forward to celebrating with them in Tarpon Springs!"
Aqua Quest, the company for which the detained Americans work, issued the following statement:
"It's a great day for the United States of America, Aqua Quest International and Honduras. Aqua Quest International has had supreme confidence that at the end of the day, the appeals court in Honduras would look at the facts and rule in our favor and that day has come.
We give thanks to many for the unwavering support that we have gathered throughout this ordeal and in particular, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick and his staff who latched onto this like a pit bull for Justice since day one.
After returning to Tarpon Springs, Florida and spending some time with family and loved ones, we look forward to putting this unfortunate incident behind us and moving ahead with our many projects on deck with seemingly unlimited potential."