17 Nov 2009

Three dead, five rescued after two-month ocean drift from PNG

10:00 pm on 17 November 2009

A San Diego-based fishing boat has rescued seven Papua New Guineans lost at sea for two months, but two have died before reaching port in the Marshall Islands.

A helicopter from the American flagged purse seiner Ocean Encounter spotted a 22-foot boat drifting near Nauru in the central Pacific on Sunday.

Seven men were onboard and told Ocean Encounter's Captain Ben Maughan after their rescue that they had left Tabar Island in the New Ireland area of Papua New Guinea on September 14 to return home to Lihir Island, a distance of about 51 kilometres.

But they ran out of gas during what was expected to be a daytime trip and began their two-month drift to the northeast.

The survivors are reportedly suffering from overexposure and malnutrition.

An eighth passenger of the small boat, a 17-year-old male, was reportedly washed overboard and lost at sea during a storm last Friday.

The survivors said they saw several longline fishing vessels during their two-months at sea, but these vessels ignored their gestures calling for assistance.