Feature

Acting Chief Of Navy Commander Marika Vosawale Shares His Story Of The Vanuavatu Sisters Rescue

Acting Chief of Navy Commander Marika Vosawale played a crucial role in the search and rescue operation of the Vanuavatu sisters in July 1995.
23 May 2020 15:43
Acting Chief Of Navy Commander Marika Vosawale Shares His Story Of The Vanuavatu Sisters Rescue
Lute Tubuna and Liliana Gade today. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Acting Chief of Navy Commander Marika Vosawale played a crucial role in the search and rescue operation of the Vanuavatu sisters in July 1995.

At the time, he was a Lieutenant (Navy) and Commanding Officer of RFNS Saqa (A Darbur Class Patrol Boat from Israel).

They had chartered a Vanua Air aircraft for the search.

They departed Nausori on Thursday, July 27, 1995 at 1400hrs and returned at 1800hrs.

He was accompanied by Chief Petty Officer Meli Wara, a radio operator.

Here is what they saw:

  • Sisters were located at about 1500hrs.
  • They were drifting about 15 nautical miles South West of Vanuavatu.
  • A wooden punt with two girls inside. One of them was lying down and the other girl sitting.
  • Unfavourable weather of very rough seas and strong winds.
The copy of CPO Meli Wara’s diary on Thursday, July 27, 1995. Photo: Meli Wara

The copy of CPO Meli Wara’s diary on Thursday, July 27, 1995.
Photo: Meli Wara

Commander Vosawale said from what they saw there was a 50/50 chance of the girls surviving.

“Taking into account the weather conditions and the size of their punt. But there was high hope as we had located them and help was on the way.

“RFNS Kula was steaming to their located position to rescue them. Our presence too and hovering above them for more than an hour must have given them hope and strength knowing that they had been sighted and help is on the way.”

Like Rear Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander, Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto, Commander Vosawale was emotional and in tears meeting Lute Tubuna and Liliana Gade for the first time on Tuesday.

“For me personally, as I always share with my fellow officers that Search and Rescue (SAR) is a very difficult task to conduct. There is always a feeling of sweet emotions and thankfulness when we are successful but when we are unsuccessful – the feeling of failure and hurt engulfs us knowing that life had been lost,” Commander Vosawale said.

“In this case it was sweet and memorable as we had saved two lives from Vanuavatu in 1995 and today there are 15 more new lives born from them.”

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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