Sailors Lost at Sea for 5 Months Had EPIRB On Board -Coast Guard

Sailors assigned to the USS Ashland (LSD 48) render assistance to distressed sailors in the Pacific Ocean, October 25, 2017. Ashland rescued two American sailors who had been in distress for several months after their sailboat had a motor failure and had strayed well off its original course while traversing the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Navy Photo

Two Hawaiian women who were rescued from their disabled sailboat in the Pacific Ocean last week have admitted to having an EPIRB on board that was never activated, the U.S. Coast Guard has said.

The women, along with their two dogs, were rescued on October 25 by the crew of the USS Ashland after they were spotted by a Taiwanese fishing vessel some 900 miles southeast of Japan.

Once aboard the Ashland, the women told the Navy that they had set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti last spring, but their engine failed during bad weather on May 30, and the sailboat had also reportedly sustained damage to its rigging and mast. The Navy said they continued on by sail for Tahiti, but after two months they began issuing daily distress calls that went unanswered.

The women reported that they survived the situation by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, primarily dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.

“When I saw the grey boat on the edge of the horizon, my heart leapt because I knew that we were about to be saved, because I honestly believed we were going to die within the next 24 hours,” one of the women said in an interview aboard the USS Ashland.

The Navy said the Ashland crew members brought the women aboard after assessing the sailboat as being unseaworthy.

Almost immediately, however, many people on social media began poking holes their story.

A spokesman for the Coast Guard told the AP on Monday that a review of the incident and subsequent interviews with the survivors revealed that they had the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on board, but they never turned it on.

“We asked why during this course of time did they not activate the EPIRB. She had stated they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.

The AP has also reported that the Coast Guard made radio contact with a vessel that identified itself as the Sea Nymph in June near Tahiti, and the captain said they were not in distress and expected to make land the next morning.

The two women have now been taken to Japan, according to reports.