US Army mariners save fisherman clinging to plastic cooler lid in sea near Indonesia
Stars and Stripes September 5, 2023
U.S. Army mariners came to the rescue of a fisherman clinging to a plastic cooler lid Friday off the western coast of Obi Island, Indonesia, according to the 8th Theater Sustainment Command.
The USAV Palo Alto, a 174-foot landing craft, was headed home to Japan from the Talisman Sabre exercise in Australia when Sgt. Seth Leonard, a watercraft engineer on the bridge, saw something ahead, according to an Army news release Monday.
“I noticed what looked like someone waving their arms, which is the signal for distress in water,” Leonard said in the release. “I grabbed my binoculars to see if my eyes were playing tricks on me and that’s when I saw someone about 1.5 miles directly in front of us.”
The fisherman had clung to the plastic cooler lid for hours after his boat capsized, Jon Daniell, a spokesman for the Hawaii-based sustainment command, said by phone Saturday from Indonesia.
“It was about the size of a boogie board,” Sgt. 1st Class Stefen Valencia, a Palo Alto crewman, said in the release. “I’m pretty sure that lid is what kept him alive.”
The crew pulled the fisherman from the sea and brought him to the Palo Alto’s sick bay where he was fed and given dry clothes, Daniell said.
The crew used Google Translate to communicate with the man, he said. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta helped coordinate an Indonesian navy ship to collect the fisherman.
The Palo Alto’s crew, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), was bound for the vessel’s prepositioned base in Japan following two months of military exercises with U.S. and Australian forces Down Under, Daniell said without naming the base.
The U.S. military and Coast Guard assisted several mariners in distress this summer.
Sailors aboard the Navy destroyer USS Ralph Johnson provided food and fuel to Filipino fishermen in distress Aug. 14 on the South China Sea.
A week earlier, the USNS Millinocket, an expeditionary fast-transport vessel also taking part in Talisman Sabre, provided fuel to a leisure craft stranded on the Timor Sea off northern Australia.
The Coast Guard on July 13 orchestrated a multinational effort to find two overdue Micronesian fishermen adrift more than 800 miles southeast of Guam in the Western Pacific.
On July 10, the Coast Guard, working with French, Canadian and U.S. air force and naval aircraft, found and airlifted 11 people from a disabled, 21-foot fishing boat, the Full Horizon 20, adrift off the coast of Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands.