New year rescue at sea

David Yu Santos

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Prior to the rescue at Sulu sea, the vessel was adrift for 4 days

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The Philipine Navy rescued on New Year’s Day at least 32 people who were stranded on board a fishing vessel that encountered a mechanical problem while traveling from a remote island near the country’s Malaysian border.

Prior to the rescue, the vessel had been adrift for four days

DISTRESSED: Crew members and passengers of F/B Kent Ford 2 await rescue after their boat's engine malfunctioned, leaving them drifting at Sulu sea for four days. (Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Western Mindanao)

F/B Kent Ford 2 departed from Mapun Island, south of Tawi-Tawi province on Dec 28, 2011, carrying seven crew members, 17 passengers and eight Marine soldiers who were scheduled to take their holiday break.

According to a report that reached the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), the fishing boat’s crew sent a distress message reporting that it “encountered major derangement on its transmission system causing the whole propulsion to stop” a day after it left Mapun port, causing it to drift.

Navy units from Western Mindanao and Palawan, that included two vessels and an aircraft initially deployed by the NFWM to conduct a search and rescue operation, had a hard time locating the distressed fishing boat since its Global Positioning System (GPS) also malfunctioned.

Though the Navy aircraft managed to establish “radio and visual contacts” with F/B Kent Ford 2 on the third day (December 31) of the operation, Navy vessels still failed to to locate its exact position due to strong winds and the rough sea that continued to push the fishing boat to different directions.

In what was possibly a strike of luck, a passing commercial vessel, M/V Angel Explorer, also spotted the distressed F/B Kent Ford 2 and immediately communicated with the Navy units, to help establish the fishing boat’s location.

We finally located F/B Kent Ford 2 around 8:20 pm on New Year’s Day, and we able to rescue all the 32 people on board it,” said Commander Peter De Guzman, officer-in-charge of the BRP Apolinario Mabini, one the Navy vessels that were part of the operation.

Out of water, food

One of the passengers, Sgt. Jomar Segura, said that they almost lost hope they would still be rescued. “With no sign of help, we thought we were all going to die.”

Desperate over their failure to establish reliable contact with authorities, passengers of the fishing boat also found themselves running out of potable water and food supply, since the vessel had been drifting in the sea for four days.

Thankfully, Segura, who is a medical corpsman of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-5 (MBLT-5) based in Mapun, had with him a number of his medical equipment, including some intravenous (IV) fluids, since he was being transferred to his new assignment in Sitangkai Island after his holiday break.

Segura administered the IV fluids on one of the boat’s lady passengers, who was “very weak” from an undisclosed illness, and who had not eaten for a number of days.

The passengers were all exhausted but in high spirits when they were rescued,” said NFWM Commander, Rear Admiral Armando Guzman, who personally supervised the operation.

RESCUED. Crew members and passengers of F/B Kent Ford 2 arrive in Zamboanga City on board the Philippine Navy's BRP Apolinario Mabini after being rescued at Sulu Sea. (Photo courtesy of Naval Forces Western Mindanao)

Only 20 of the rescued passengers and soldiers on board F/B Kent Ford 2 arrived in Majini Pier in this city past lunch on Monday, January 2. Ambulances were on standby to bring them to a military hospital where they underwent a medical check-up.

The crew members and a number of passengers opted to stay on board the fishing boat, which was towed and brought to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard station in Jolo, Sulu.

If there are Christmas miracles, ours happened on New Year’s Day,” Segura said, adding, “and we are extremely grateful that we are still all alive.” – Rappler.com

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