Joshua Hakken is accused of abducting his two young boys, Cole and Chase, after he lost custody. Authorities say he boarded a sailboat along with his boys and wife last Wednesday night and headed out of John's Pass in Madeira Beach.
A massive air and land search by local agencies turned up nothing. Late Monday, authorities said they received information the Hakkens reached Cuba.
"The first person I saw on the boat was a child," said CNN reporter Patrick Oppman who spoke to ABC Action News over the phone. "I couldn't make out which child it was."
Oppman said he had gone from marina to marina with his photographer searching for signs of the family. It was at the last marina, Hemingway Marina, where he spotted the family. His photographer did manage to take video of the boat and family before Cuban officials told them to stop filming.
"We got in to the Hemingway Marina. This is really one of the larger marinas in Cuba. Foreigners come here with their boats. We are talking luxury yachts and very nice sailboats and then you saw the Hakken's boat which was by far the smallest boat there and looked beat up," Oppman explained.
Worry and concern swirled for days as to whether or not the Hakkens safely traveled through bad weather. Oppman said the boat looked like it took a beating at sea.
"It didn't look exactly like the those photos that the Hillsborough authorities released. It looked a lot more scratched up. You could see where the white had been scratched up. I really hoped the family had not tried to come here because you look out and see the white caps and just imagine what that is like."
Oppman said he spotted one of the little boys playing aboard the boat but could not identify which one. He also spotted Sharyn Hakken and briefly spoke with her.
"I said, 'You know people are very worried about if your children were OK. I said people are very worried about your children. Are they OK?' She said yes. She nodded her head and indicated that both are OK," Oppman said.
Also spotted on board was Joshua Hakken. Oppman said he did approach him and asked him if he was Joshua.
"He said, 'Yeah, I am Josh, who are you?'"
When Oppmann told Hakken he was a reporter, Hakken allegedly got upset and stormed off the boat.
Oppman recently tweeted his sources are telling him U.S. and Cuban officials are cooperating to protect the Hakken children.