NEWS

Search And Rescue Teams Spot Three Fishermen On A Reef

Joyce Aviation was also engaged by the Fiji Navy as well as other boats in the search. They included Don Bruce’s Coralview with several Police officers and boats from Tavua and the Yasawas.
16 Nov 2019 15:02
Search And Rescue Teams  Spot Three Fishermen On A Reef
Luke Vakatale, 29,Turtle Island Resort chief executive Richard Evanson, Viliame Uqeuqe, 47, and Maikeli Sivo, 34, at the resort on November 15, 2019. Photo: Bale Saukuru

Since the 1980s Viliame Uqeuqe loved going out fishing and never regretted taking those trip out to sea.

The 47-year-old is one of three men from Nadolodolo, Tavua, who were rescued in waters off the Yasawa Group of islands after their boat registered WT086 capsized on Thursday.

He was accompanied by Maikeli Sivo, 34, and Luke Vakatale, 29. They departed their village mid-day on Tuesday.

Their fishing trip turned into a frightful ordeal when their boat was flipped over by strong winds and turbulent waves.

They sent a text message, but it was unanswered until yesterday morning.

Mr Uqeuqe recounted the ordeal.

Their last meal was breakfast on board then no food and no water as they clung on with faith from the side of their boat.

“As soon as we landed in the sea, we did reach out for our life jackets,” he said.

“As we drifted we talked to each other to keep our spirits high.”

They decided to abandon their boat and swim to a nearby reef.

By then a team from SAR flight deployed by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre located the missing persons near Yasawa i-rara.

Whitecaps and heavy swells made it difficult spotting the trio from a higher altitude.

Yesterday, Mr Uqeuqe said he saw a plane twice, the third time it came it dropped a survival kit, which included life jackets and water.

They were then rescued by the Turtle Island Resort boat and later examined by staff nurses Nacula and Teci.

After being notified Turtle Island Resort chief executive officer, Richard Evanson, said they immediately arranged a seaplane and speedboat to search at first light the next day. The resort boat rescued the fishermen at 1.15pm.

“When an incident like this occurs near your home and you’re in a position to help, there is no question of what must be done,” Mr Evanson said.

“We made the search for these men our number one priority, especially when it involves the lives of others.”

On Turtle Island Resort the fishermen were given dry clothes, food and rest.

“It was extremely rewarding to hear the fishermen speak to their families and to hear of the joy their families had to know that their loved ones were safe was fulfilling,” he said

Joyce Aviation was also engaged by the Fiji Navy as well as other boats in the search. They included Don Bruce’s Coralview with several Police officers and boats from Tavua and the Yasawas.

The fishermen will be flown to Nadi today to reunite with their families.

Edited by Percy Kean

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