Saturday 20 January 2018

Three Samoan teenagers rescued after 50 days adrift at sea in tiny boat

Bonnie Malkin

Three Samoan teenagers have survived 50 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean, being found alive by a tuna fishing vessel long after their families had given them up for dead.

The youths, two aged 15 and one aged 14, had disappeared on Oct 5 in a tiny aluminium boat from the remote Atafu Atoll.

The trio were presumed to have drowned after unsuccessful searches by the New Zealand Air Force and Samoa had held a memorial service in their honour.

But, in a remarkable stroke of luck, the teenagers were spotted on Wednesday by a New Zealand tuna fishing boat which was far off its usual course.

Samuel Perez and Filo Filo, both 15 and Edward Nasau, 14, had drifted 800 miles and were in waters northeast of Fiji when they were rescued.

The first mate of the fishing boat the San Nikunau said that the boys had only eaten one seabird and a couple of coconuts during their time at sea.

In the days before their miraculous rescue, they had started drinking seawater, because it had not rained for some time, and would not have survived much longer, he said.

However, the teens had sustained surprisingly few injuries during their ordeal. They were thin and sunburnt, but otherwise fairly healthy and in good spirits.

"We got to them in a miracle," Tai Fredricsen, first mate of the San Nikunau, said.

"Yesterday we saw a small vessel, a little speed boat on our bows, and we knew it was a little weird," he told the Fairfax website

Mr Fredricsen said the boat was initially spotted when it was about a mile off the bow.

"We had enough smarts to know there were people in it and those people were not supposed to be there."

"I pulled the vessel up as close as I could to them and asked them if they needed any help ... they said 'very much so'. They were ecstatic to see us."

Luckily, the San Nikunau had a medical officer on-board, who knew not to feed the trio too quickly. Instead they were put on a drip before slowly being given sips of water and small pieces of fruit that their bodies could absorb.

Soon they were strong enough to eat a full "kiwi breakfast", Mr Fredricsen said.

The boys are expected to be put ashore at Suva, the Fijian capital, in the next 24 hours where they will be checked at a hospital.

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