The Korea Herald


'Shark helped save me' says rescued Kiribati fisherman

By 윤민식

Published : Sept. 17, 2012 - 18:21

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A day after watching a film about being lost at sea, Toakai Teitoi was trapped in his own nightmare, drifting in a wooden boat for 15 weeks -- before a shark helped to rescue him.

The 41-year-old Kiribati policeman and father-of-six relived his harrowing voyage in the central Pacific when he arrived in Majuro on Saturday on the Marshall Islands fishing boat which picked him up last week.

He told of sleeping with the body of his brother-in-law who died during the ordeal, suffering severe dehydration and praying to be found alive.

Teitoi's drama began on May 27 after he had flown from his home island of Maiana to the Kiribati capital of Tarawa to be sworn in as a policeman.

Following the ceremony, he watched a film about four men from Kiribati who were lost at sea. Only two survived by the time they were washed ashore in American Samoa six weeks later.

It was then that he changed his mind about flying home and joined his brother-in-law Ielu Falaile, 52, on what was supposed to be a two-hour sea journey back to Maiana in a 15-foot wooden boat.

But after stopping to fish along the way and sleeping overnight, they woke the following day to find they had drifted out of sight of Maiana and soon after ran out of fuel.

"We had food, but the problem was we had nothing to drink," he said.

As dehydration took hold, Teitoi, a Catholic, said he turned to prayer as it gave him strength. But Falaile's health began failing and he died on July 4.

"I left him there overnight and slept next to him like at a funeral,"

Teitoi said. He buried his brother-in-law at sea the next morning.

Only a day after Falaile passed away a storm blew into the area and rained for several days allowing Teitoi to fill two five-gallon containers with a life-saving supply of fresh water.

"There were two choices in my mind at the time. Either someone would find me or I would follow my brother-in-law. It was out of my control."

He continued to pray regularly and on the morning of September 11 caught sight of a fishing boat in the distance but the crew were unable to see him.

Dejected, he did what he had done most days, curling up under a small covered area in the bow to stay out of the tropical sun.

Teitoi said he woke in the afternoon to the sound of scratching and looked overboard to see a six-foot shark circling the boat and bumping the hull.

When the shark had his attention it swam off.

"He was guiding me to a fishing boat. I looked up and there was the stern of a ship and I could see crew with binoculars looking at me."

When the vessel Marshalls 203 pulled Teitoi on board the first thing he asked for was a cigarette.

"They told me to wait. They took me to meet the captain, and they gave me juice and some food."

With Teitoi in no physical danger, the Marshalls 203 continued fishing for several days before returning to Majuro.

He was scheduled to fly from Majuro to Tarawa on Sunday and will then fly to Maiana.

"I'll never go by boat again. I'm taking a plane," he said. (AFP)

<관련 한글 기사>

망망대해에 버려진 남성, 상어 만나서...

태평양에서 15주간이나 표류하다 구조된 한 남성이 "상어가 자신을 구조 선박으로 인도했다"고 밝혀 화제다.

중부 태평양 서쪽의 섬나라 키리바시 공화국의 토아카이 테이토이(41)는 지난 15일 마셜군도 마주로에 상륙해 길고 끔찍했던 표류기에 종지부를 찍었다. 

지난 5월 27일 경관 취임식에 참석하기 위해 마이아나 섬의 집을 떠나 타라와로 간 테이토이는 이튿날 비행기를 이용해 다시 집으로 돌아올 예정이었다.

그러나 태평양을 배경으로 한 표류기를 담은 영화를 본 후 배를 타고 집에 가보고 싶어진 그는 마음을 바꿨고, 매형과 함께 길이가 5m도 채 안 되는 작은 나무 보트에 올랐다. 

마이아나까지 2시간이면 도착할 것으로 예상했으나 도중 잠이 들어 이튿날 깬 그들은 섬이 보이지 않는 곳에 멀리 벗어나 있었고 연료도 곧 고갈됐다.

마실 물이 없었던 그들은 탈수에 시달렸고 그의 매형은 표류 5주째였던 7월 4일 사망했다. 빗물을 받아 마시며 버티던 그는 지난 11일 마침내 구조됐다.

테이토이는 "햇빛을 피하려고 보트 안에 웅크려 누워 있었는데 바닥을 긁는 소리가 들려 일어나보니 상어 한 마리가 보트 주위를 돌며 바닥을 치고 있었다"면서 "내가 일어나자 상어는 사라졌다"고 말했다.

그는 또 "그 상어는 나에게 지나가던 어선에 대해 알리고 있었다"며 "주위를 보니 배 한 척이 있었고 선원들이 쌍안경으로 내 쪽을 보는 것이 눈에 들어왔다"고 밝 혔다.

테이토이를 구조한 어선은 물과 음식을 나눠주고 그의 건강에 큰 문제가 없다는 것을 확인, 낚시를 마친 뒤 지난 15일 마주로에 상륙했다.