Kitu Tells Of Four-Hour Ordeal At Sea

The 49-year-old was one of the nine people rescued after the boat they were travelling on capsized at sea in the Yasawa Group.
05 Sep 2020 11:02
Kitu Tells Of Four-Hour Ordeal At Sea
Staff of Turtle Island Resort attending to the rescued children at the resort

Since childhood Timoci Kitu, loved sea sprays and has been travelling on fibre boats to his island home, Nacula, Yasawa.

But Thursday’s frightening experience changed his perception of the sea.

The 49-year-old was one of the nine people rescued after the boat they were travelling on capsized at sea in the Yasawa Group.

The group included three children aged two, three, and six. They were travelling from Lautoka to Malakati Village on Nacula Island for a family gathering.

Sharing an account of what had happened, Mr Kitu described the experience as frightening after the boat they were on was flipped over by strong winds and turbulent waves.

Mr Kitu, a civil servant with the Ministry of Infrastructure based at Lautoka said this happened around 11am on Thursday.

With the boat upside down, he said the safety of the three children was their priority, so they placed them on top of the inverted boat to keep them dry.

The rest of them just held on to the side of the boat and prayed for rescue.

He said fortunately one of the people aboard the boat was able to send a text message to a relative, notifying them about their dire situation.

“We were on course and it was pretty rough. Our captain misjudged a wave that turned our boat upside down,” Mr Kitu said.

“This was the first time it has happened to us. When it happened I just thought about the small kids.”

At around 12.45pm, the Turtle Island Dock Station responded to a call from Malakati Village, reporting of a capsized boat.

“We were focused on saving our lives, everything we had gone into the sea. Lucky it did not happen in the night as it would have been a different story,” he added.

Managing director, Richard Evanson Jr, said when they were notified they sent out the resort fishing boat immediately thereafter to commence the search and rescue.

The operation was co-ordinated by resort manager, Bill Mualele, and boat captain, Maika Navuniivi.

According to Mr Evanson Jnr at 1pm a second phone call was received by a relative of those on board the capsized boat, and this was the last call received from them.

The Fiji Navy also assisted in the efforts by providing the relative location of the last phone call made by those onboard the capsized vessel.

After an extensive two and a half hour search, the resort boat captain located floating objects (which appeared to be from the capsized vessel) five miles away from the last reported location.

Fortunately, at 3.40pm, which was about four and a half hours later, the resort boat crew saw hands waving from the water.

The passengers were transported to the resort where they were given warm clothes, hot tea, and the three children with their parents were quickly airlifted by Island Hoppers to Nacula Health Centre for medical checks.

Mr Evanson Jr said since November 2019, the resort had been involved with search and rescue totaling to around 25 people.

Mr Kitu said, “On behalf of our family we are thankful to the resort and the Fiji Navy for their quick response.”

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra


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