Ordeal of six who went missing at sea for 20 days
BY MAVIS NISHIMURA PODOKOLO
WITH only a paddle at their disposal, six adults were able to survive 20 days at sea on an outboard motor canoe with little food from the wild and water from the rain.
The survivors, who grabbed headlines when they went missing on 11 July 2020 between Santa Cruz and the Reef Islands in Temotu, miraculously shored on Ulawa, Makira-Ulawa province, last Wednesday.
On August 3rd, they arrived in Honiara for medical checkups and are staying at St Agnes Lodge.
The survivors include two nurse Salome Menubir and David Tereko, a high school student Elsie Lopabe, a mother Janet Nyiaboi, skipper Godrey Wale and crew Brown Meba.
They were returning home after referring a patient at Lata Hospital when a large wave struck their boat and filled it with water midway through their journey.
A nurse and mother of two children, Salome Menubir recalls that when the first big wave struck their boat the first thing come to her mind is, they will not make it but when they bail out the water on the boat, she began to have hope.
She said it was such an experience they will never forget adding their survival is miracle that comes through prayer and faith.
She said for the 20 days they survived being struck by big waves for five times. The first wave hit them at day time while the other four waves hit them at night time.
She said as a mother they have to support the three men onboard by sharing big part of the meal each day during the sea ordeal.
“To keep us going we have to share big portion of our food for our men because they are the one who will paddle the boat.
“This experience will stay on us but the message is we are safe and we are looking forward to reunite with our families,” she said with great relief.
Another survivor who also a nurse David Tereko emotionally relayed his story that it was through prayer that they managed to survive.
“It was only through prayer that we were able to survive the 20 days at sea,” survivor David Teveko, 57, a nurse working at Manuopa clinic, told Island Sun on August 3rd.
“There’s no other way I can explain it,” he added, when asked how they were able to make it.
“We were mid-way on our journey when a large wave struck our boat, capsizing it instantly,” Teveko said.
“We lost everything, except the clothes on our bodies.
“But we were able to hold on to the boat, which was filled with water and was likely to sink due to the weight of the 40-horse power engine.
“Then we were able to get rid of the engine and free the boat; bailed the water out and get back into it.
“This time without the engine, and only one paddle,” Teveko recalled.
Then their 20-day sea ordeal began.
“During our first four days, we have nothing to eat.
“On the fifth day, some kind of a miracle happened when a turtle came beside the boat and we were able to catch it with ease.
“We also eat coconuts we collected from the ocean and drink rain water,” he said
Teveko said throughout the 20 days, they don’t have much to eat and drink, but their daily prayers kept them strong and focus.
He added the paddle was not much of use to them, but they used it only when they need to steer the boat.
Teveko said they keep drifting with the flow of the current.
“We also keep praying to God to keep as alive as we have families waiting for us,” he said.
Teveko on his arrival was comforted when her two daughters Bettsey Teveko and Mary Teveko and his grand son reunite with him at St Agnes Lodge.
He was filled with smiles and joy as her two daughters embracing him.
The skipper, Godfrey Wale said when the first wave struck their boat the first thing, they do is releasing the engine from the boat.
When reports of the missing six surfaced, a search including Police and Health officials at Lata as well as a New Zealand Defence Force Orion aircraft and a helicopter from Honiara was undertaken.
But it failed to locate the six.
After 20 days at sea, the six were able to shore at Ngarangara Point near Su’umoli Village on Ulawa Island last Friday.
The survivors are now safely accommodated at St Agnes Lodge with the support of Arch Bishop of the Church of Melanesia and Pele Constituency.
Mrs Menubir on behalf the survivors acknowledge families at Ulawa for assisting them and Arch Bishop Rt Rev. Leonard Dawea and Pele Constituency.
Meanwhile a thanksgiving service is set for 5.30pm tomorrow at Saint Alban Parish.