Back to list

Rescued American women's murder accusation 'groundless': MOFA

2017/11/14 17:56:04

Video clip taken from U.S. Navy's YouTube page.

Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday denied an accusation by two Americans that a Taiwanese fishing vessel they previously credited for saving their lives after rescuing them floating at sea last month was in fact "trying to kill them."

The allegation raised by two American women was "groundless and deviates from the truth," MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said.

On Oct. 25, the U.S. Navy pulled Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, both of Honolulu, and their dogs off a damaged sailboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after a Taiwanese fishing boat discovered them floating aimlessly at sea on Oct. 24.

The women said they had been adrift for five months, fending off storms and shark attacks, before eventually being spotted by a Taiwanese fishing boat, which towed them closer to shore before a U.S. Navy ship brought them to dry land, according to media reports.

But in an interview with NBC News after an appearance on the Today show last Wednesday, however, the two did an about-face.

"While the media portrayed a rescue with the Taiwanese fishing vessel, they were actually the reason why we called for help," Appel was quoted as saying.

"The Taiwanese fishing vessel was not planning to rescue us.....They tried to kill us during the night," she said, adding that the Taiwanese boat "purposely rammed against us."

According to the NBC report, Appel said she was able to board the Taiwanese fishing vessel to use its satellite phone and alert the U.S. Coast Guard that they were in danger.

Taiwan's Fisheries Agency said, however, that the Taiwanese vessel contacted the agency after it spotted the crippled sailboat about 900 miles southeast of Japan, thousands of miles from their original destination of Tahiti.

The agency then called Taiwan's National Rescue Command Center, which later informed the U.S. side of the situation, leading to the U.S. Naval base in Guam dispatching a rescue team.

The MOFA's Lee said Tuesday that the Taiwanese vessel has been identified as the Feng Chun No. 66 (豐春66號).

The fishing vessel was operating in waters north off the Midway Atoll on Oct. 24 when it spotted the damaged sailboat. It immediately rescued the two Americans and even allowed them to use their satellite phone to contact a rescue team, he said.

Citing data from Taiwan's National Rescue Command Center and the Fisheries Agency's e-monitoring system for fishing boats, Lee said the speed of the Feng Chun No. 66 and its positions at the time of the Oct. 24 encounter can prove that it did not ram the sailboat of the two Americans.

"We are not certain why they made such ungrounded accusations," Lee said.

The latest claim is one of several twists in their story since they were rescued last month.

For example, the two had an emergency beacon on their sailboat, but they never activated it. Also, the U.S. National Weather Service said it has no record of a big storm at the time and place where the women say their boat was battered by bad weather.

These inconsistencies have given rise to questions of how accurate their depiction of their time at sea has really been.

(By Joseph Yeh)