NEWS

Lucky Call Saves 5 Adrift at Sea

A doctor, a nurse and three others were found dehydrated, starving and weak, drifting south of Moala Island yesterday. Thanks to a co-ordinated search and rescue operation between the Fiji
26 Apr 2017 10:00
Lucky Call Saves 5 Adrift at Sea
Crew aboard the RFNS Kula, October 25, 2014. Photo: FILE/Ronald Kumar

A doctor, a nurse and three others were found dehydrated, starving and weak, drifting south of Moala Island yesterday.

Thanks to a co-ordinated search and rescue operation between the Fiji Navy and a doctor on Moala.

Photo:Dr Mikaele Lutumailagi

On Sunday, Dr Mikaele Lutumailagi, and the four accompanied a sick patient from Gau to Levuka.

They left Levuka to return to Gau at 10am but did not reach their destination. During the journey their fibre glass boat engine ran out of fuel and they started to drift. Without food and water, the five gradually became weak.

The doctor on Moala tried calling Dr Lutumailagi, who is a close colleague and friend, several times but failed to connect. The doctor kept trying and by a stroke of luck, finally got through to Dr Lutumailagi.

“For some reason I felt the urge to dial his number even though it kept saying it was out of service and finally my call went through at 9pm on Monday and I got hold of him,” the doctor said.

He said the first thing he asked Dr Lutumailagi was if they were okay and how the crew were.

“He replied they were all right but were tired and all they could see around them were lights. I then realised that it must be Moala Island and figured that the five crew members had passed Gau,” he said.

He then informed relevant authorities about the current location and status of the crew.

It is understood that the Navy ship RFNS Kula went close to the five on Monday night but it was forced to pull back due to adverse weather conditions.

“By 1am yesterday (Tuesday) I made my second contact with Dr Lutumailagi and by now they were very weak,” said the doctor.

“I just thank God that they are all safe now.”

Police ACP Rusiate Tudravu confirmed the rescue.

“We are grateful to everyone who has assisted in the search,” ACP Tudravu said.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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