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Saved by a phone

Kalesi Mele
Saturday, December 02, 2017

LANCE Miller has never been so grateful for a phone like he was on Tuesday morning when the barge he was in sank around 16 nautical miles North East of Logana Beach in Yasawa.

Mr Miller was one of nine survivors on the Kaiwai barge.

He used his waterproof phone to call for help from a resort in Bukama.

He said the barge had left Lautoka around 2pm on Monday afternoon and made its way to Bukama Village on far-flung Yasawa Islands.

The incident occurred around 1am on Tuesday.

"I could sense something was wrong and stepped out of the cabin to see crew members rushing about," he said.

"One of them turned to me and said grab a life jacket and I did.

"I was in the process of putting on the life jacket and at that same time the barge was sinking.

"It was very quick, the barge went down in like 30 seconds."

Pitch black with only the lights from the island, Mr Miller said they had to muster all they could to ensure they stayed together.

"We just all huddled together making sure that we didn't let go of anyone. It was dark, the lights on the barge had gone out so quickly.

"During this time, I used my Samsung S8 which is waterproof to call the resort on Bukama and ask for someone to bring a boat to pick us up. I managed to get hold of someone but it wasn't that easy. We had to wait for another two-and-a-half hours before we were actually picked up from the water.

"It was dark and scary. The only things we could see was the lights on the island."

He said the team made it to the shore around four o'clock that same morning.

"When we reached the shore, I made it a point to call the emergency numbers 919 and 917 and they were engaged. It was frustrating because we needed help at that time. I called around six times and there was no response. I ended up calling Vodafone and asked if they could transfer me to the Lautoka Police Station because I had to report the incident. I was angry.

"I notified my family straight away, but I felt sorry for the rest of the crew because they were trying to reach theirs, but couldn't. It wasn't a great experience altogether and we're just happy to make it out alive."

There were 12 people on the barge. The bodies of the two passengers who died in the incident were airlifted to the mainland the next day.

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said the search for the third passenger continued.

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