Lone survivor speaks out

Ishmael Simea, age 20 from Madang`s Rai Coast District was the skipper of the 23-footer boat that was held up at Tabali Point by sea pirates more than a week ago.

The lone survivor has spoken out about the ordeal that he and his passengers faced when the six armed men happened upon them on the evening of January 13.

Simea said they were all forced off the boat, and the armed robbers made off with the boat and belongings.

Simea recalled that around 3pm he left Madang Town with eight passengers for Saidor. He said while they were travelling towards Tabali Point, they saw another 23-footer boat some distance away. Passengers on that boat were signaling him to stop. It was about 5pm already.

The young skipper said they approached the other boat. The skipper of the other boat was a fat man with a beard. The others had masks over their faces.

Simea said when he realised this, he told his passengers that these men were pirates and he told his passengers to lie on the floor of the boat as he tried to get away as fast as he could.

“I tried to gain speed and escape but I could not because I had load on my boat and their boat was light. They (overpowered) my boat (so) I had to stop.

"I called for help for some time but no one came to assist. The pirates, six of them, ordered us to jump off our boat and three of the pirates (got) on my boat while the other three were on their boat. My friends and I, all males, gathered together, joined our hands and tried to find our way ashore.

"While we were struggling for some hours, the wind became stronger (and) sea level began to rise. The tide was strong so it separated us. We went in different directions.

“I knew that if I follow the tide, I will not make it ashore so I went against the tide. I am not sure how my other male friends went. I tried my best to swim ashore but could not. I saw the moon appear in the sky and I was still out in the open sea. As I watched, the sun (came up). I was very weak (and) I just prayed that help will come.

"While floating I saw the sun set and then I heard (the) sound of a boat coming my way. It was late in the afternoon. I was weak and could not shout anymore but was praying that the boat that will come to help me.

"As I was floating, the boat approached me and on that boat was a doctor. When they saw me, they assisted me and the doctor helped me to Basamuk where he told health workers to help me. I was assisted by health workers at Basamuk that Friday night,” Simea recalled.

Early Saturday morning police officers from Madang were told of the incident. They went to Basamuk and transported Simea to Modilon Hospital where he was treated.

He thanked God and everyone who made sure he was safe and alive.

Madang police commander, acting superintendent Mazuc Rubiang, said seven others are still missing, while one teenager was found in the sea on Saturday January 15, by locals from Pik Island. His body is at Modilon Hospital morgue. The deceased was identified as Pang Labi, 17 from Yemis Village.

His relatives confirmed that he was a Grade 7 student at Saidor Primary School.

PPC Rubiang said relatives of those missing were able to assist police with names.

The others missing are:

  • Clifford Buniaweing, 30, Tarawai Island, East Sepik;
  • Kaskin Supera, 47, Sor Village, Saidor;
  • Simon, 48, Siwit village, Saidor;
  • Mai Nafa-Tipang (primary school teacher), Nayudo LLG;
  • Pastor Martin Honeringhu, 48, Sevan Village, Naiyudo LLG
  • John Hetaningke, 29, Sevan Village and
  • Texas Gamarak, 34, Gorowa Village

The seven are all from Rai Coast. Clifford Buniaweing is married to a woman from Rai Coast. He was with his in-laws when they met the sea pirates.

Rubiang said this is one of the worst sea piracy cases he has come across while working as PCC in the province.

Nayudo LLG president, Senuka Kaku, said he has been assisting police officers who were out looking for the missing. The search continues with support from families, relatives and friends.

PPC Rubiang said another piracy-related incident was reported at Ramu River, where four dead bodies were recovered.

“I want the public to assist the police and report those who are involved in such activities,” said the PPC.

Sylvester Wemuru