NEWS

Survivor Clings to Old Fridge Door, Tells of Sea Battle

Etuate Ratubuli yesterday recalled how he survived rough seas by clinging to an old refrigerator door when the boat he was in capsized near Vomo Island due to strong winds.
27 Dec 2021 13:53
Survivor Clings to Old Fridge Door, Tells of Sea Battle
Lucky to be alive Survivor Etuate Ratubuli (left) with Nakelo Treasure Island Resort and Spa General manager Jim Saukuru at the Lautoka Police Station on December 26, 2021. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

Etuate Ratubuli yesterday recalled how he survived rough seas by clinging to an old refrigerator door when the boat he was in capsized near Vomo Island due to strong winds.

The 20-year-old Vunibau, Serua, native was among a group of four fisherman,  Suliasi (Oscar), Tusi and Tom, the boat captain who all departed Lautoka on Monday for a fishing expedition in the Yasawa’s.

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said the group was due to return on December 24 but their fishing boat, ‘Labasa’ capsized.

Recalling the horror:

The young man said his survival was the only thing on his mind. He said words of his boat captain, Tom (who is still missing) kept him going.

“Tom said to me not to lose hope and to keep going. I gave it my all and paddled with my hands to find land.  The sea was very, very rough.”

He said that he did not know where he was heading and had lost track of the time. It was by chance he found himself on the shores of Nakelo Treasure Island Resort and Spa on Christmas day.

“We went out to sea on Monday, we fished but then the engine went off on Thursday somewhere near Nav­iti. Our boat capsized somewhere between Vomo and Waya. Oscar and I were left clinging to a fridge door each.

“We were drifted in the sea for a few days and a few nights. I took heed of what our captain had told us– not to be afraid.”

Resort General Manager speaks of rescue:

Nakelo Treasure Island Resort and Spa general manager Jim Saukuru said it was lucky Ratubuli survived the ordeal.

He said the resort staff heard someone calling for help on the shore.

“When we attended we saw Etuate. He was too weak to eat and drink due to the sea water intakes,” said Mr Saukuru.

“He was assisted to one of the rooms, bathed and given new clothes. Then he was given time to rest.”

The other survivor, Suliasi (Os­car), 25, who resides at Natabua, Lautoka had found himself swim­ming to safety at the Beachcomber Island Resort shore at around 1am.

Police are also trying to ascertain how many men are still missing. Ms Naisoro said search efforts with the assistance of the Ministry of Fisheries and other mariners have been activated.

Edited by Selita Rabuku

Feedback: waisean@fijisun.com.fj



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