By ULUTAH GINA
A BOAT carrying nine people that went missing on January 15 in the waters between Western and Choiseul provinces has been found on Monday, but without the passengers.
Police say the boat was located in the Ritamala area in Kia, Santa Isabel Province, but there were no people on board.
“The boat was found floating upside down with the 40 horsepower (HP) Out board Motor (OBM),” Provincial Police Commander (PPC) Choiseul Province, Superintendent Vincent Eria said.
The missing nine include five males, two females and two children.
They left Gizo after 10am on January 15 and head off to Posarai village, south Choiseul. It’s a journey that normally takes between 3 to four hours.
But after they failed to arrive at their destination, relatives alerted police and other authorities on the same day.
A sea-wide search conducted since then failed to located the group until police were alerted to the discovery of the floating boat on Monday.
Superintendent Eria said:
“We received a call from Kia in Isabel Province at about 5pm on 20 January 2020 confirming the missing boat was located in the Ritamala area at Kia but there were no people on board.”
“Another boat from Posarae, which was searching for the missing boat arrived at Kia and confirmed that the boat discovered is the one used by the group of nine people as it had the name ‘Posarae Clinic’ written on it.
“There were no other things found with the boat besides the engine.”
“The group must have capsized on their way as they encountered strong wind, rough seas and heavy rain on their way from Gizo to Posarae.
“This is a very sad incident.”
Darlyn Ghavu, a nursing working at Gizo Hospital, told the Solomon Star her father, younger brother and her uncle were on board the ill-fated boat.
After the boat failed to reach Posarai last week, she kept calling her father’s mobile phone but could not get connected.
She said police informed her on Monday about the discovery of the boat.
“Our relatives are still searching in the hope the missing persons may take refuge on any of the islands.
“They will continue to search,” Ghavu said.
Another relative Jiutate Pape said this is a tragedy.
She said police informed them on Monday about the boat they found in the waters of Isabel.
In light of the tragedy, police have again strongly remind boat owners, skippers and the general public of the importance of sea safety.
Before you travel, please plan your trip properly.
Here are some safety points to remember before travelling:
• Plan your trip and let at least a member of your family know where you are going and what time you expect to arrive;
• Check the weather on SIBC or call the Met Service on 23658 or toll free 933;
• If you start your trip and the weather becomes bad, seek shelter until the sea is calm;
• Make sure your boat is seaworthy and your OBM is serviced and maintained
• Know your skipper. Make sure they are experienced in driving boats;
• Do not overload your boat
• Wear life jackets. Take food and water, paddles, first aid kit, anchor and rope, mirror to signal others, tools, bucket, torch, phone, flares and EPIRB;
• Take extra fuel;
• If your skipper is drunk, do not go with them or let them control the boat; and
• If you require help, at sea call the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) on phone 21609 or 27685 or the toll free phone 977; or call the RSIPF National Communication Centre on phone 23666 or the toll free phone 999.