NEWS

Tragedy : 2 Dead, 1 Missing, 9 Saved In Sea

Two Korean nationals, are dead, one is missing and nine saved after the barge, Kaiwai, capsized in rough seas off Bukama Village in Yasawa  early yesterday morning. Two bodies were
29 Nov 2017 11:37
Tragedy : 2 Dead, 1 Missing, 9 Saved In Sea
The barge ‘Kaiwai’. Inset: Atish Chand.

Two Korean nationals, are dead, one is missing and nine saved after the barge, Kaiwai, capsized in rough seas off Bukama Village in Yasawa  early yesterday morning.

Two bodies were recovered,  a third was still missing and nine people were saved.

Search will resume today.

The two dead and one missing are believed to have been asleep in the vehicles onboard when the mishap happened.

One of the survivors, Lance Miller, described how he was thrown into the sea when the boat capsized. He said he had to claw his way through debris raining down on him as he made his way to the surface.

He said he owed his life and the lives of the other eight survivors to his waterproof Samsung phone which he used to call for help from people waiting onshore for the Kawai to arrive.

One of the bodies recovered is a Korean national, working for Grace Roads International while the other is of a 36-year- old mechanic of Lautoka. The man is named as Atish Chand.

The missing person is believed to be Korean.

The landing barge belongs to All Engineering in Lautoka and had onboard a truck and two crane trucks along with other cargo, in total about 40 tonnes, according to one of the survivors, Mr Miller.

The vessel had left Lautoka at around 2pm on Monday and headed for Bukama, taking the Korean nationals to a resort being built in Yasawa-i-rara.

Mr Miller was on a contract work with a film crew shooting out in Yasawa.

“We left Lautoka and I spent part of the afternoon up to the bridge and was talking with the captain,” Mr Miller said.

He said he left after about one and a half hours and went to read a book in an accommodation area for passengers.

“At about midnight, I felt there was something weird as there was a funny vibration and I did not feel right,”  said Mr Miller who has spent most of his life on the seas.

“I stayed awake and about 1.30am I heard them start the pumps and I got up and saw water all over the deck.”

Mr Miller said a crew member immediately told him to grab a life jacket and as he came out of the cabin the boat was already beginning to tilt to one side.

“The barge first went sideways and sunk so quickly and I fell into the barge and while under water dodged a water tank coming at me and while swimming to the surface lost my life jacket.”

“I had lost my footing before I fell into the water but the barge must have gone down within 30 seconds – it was so fast.”

As he reached the surface, he saw the crew all assemble together hanging on to some drift wood about 1.6 nautical miles offshore.

“Some float free life raft then came up and we hung on to those.”

“I then reached for my Samsung phone and immediately called those onshore and we were rescued after spending two hours adrift in rough seas with winds between 20 to 25 knots.”

“By the time I came out with my life jacket I did not have time to analyse what was happening so I don’t really know what caused the boat to fill with water.”

“I dived all my life and in that instance there was no time to be scared.”

Mr Miller said he tried calling the emergency number 919 but could not get through and he then had to call Vodafone to call the Police.

Lieutenant-Colonel  Timoci Natuva of the Fiji Navy said they received a call from Police at around 5am yesterday and arranged for a plane to conduct a search.

The search plane spotted one of the Korean nationals floating towards land and alerted those on shore.

Dalomo villager Apenisa Yabai said he was near a reef near the village looking at the debris that were being washed up and started pulling a long rope.

“After a while the rope got stuck and then a big wave came and it came loose and I saw the Korean man’s leg was wrapped around it.”

Mr Yabai recovered the body and with the help of villagers took the deceased to shore where he was laid in a shed. At around noon yesterday, Mr Yabai said they got information from a helicopter circling an area near a rock closer to Bukama village called Tuse.

“I did not wait and together with my son and a nephew we took the fibre glass boat and headed out there.”

“Where we found the Indo-Fijian man was about a chain from shore and we brought him onboard and took him and laid him beside the Korean man until they were taken to Lautoka.”

He said someone then said the third body was sighted but after a search of the area they came up with nothing.

Mr Yabai said both bodies had drifted towards shore and this could have been due to the strong winds.

Meanwhile, Daizy Neelam Krishna, 30, wife of Mr Chand was too distraught to talk.

Her sister and Fiji Sun journalist Kathrin Krishna said the only thing her sister said was that she last spoke to her husband by mobile phone at around 11pm on Monday.

“They spoke for a while and he told my sister he was going to sleep and that is the last they spoke.”

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro had said search and rescue had been activated and investigations were being carried out.

Meanwhile, All Engineering’s accountant, Pradeep Kumar, when contacted yesterday said the company did not wish to comment yet as the Police were handling the case.

Edited by Inoke Ravouvou

Feedback:  charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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