By Nonoy Lacson
ZAMBOANGA CITY – A Chinese national, who was trying to cross the Pacific Ocean on a rowboat, was found dead the shoreline of Kinapusan Island located in Barangay Nusa-Nusa in the town of South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi last April 24.
Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) Commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said a resident of Kinapusan Island discovered a the body of a headless man in blue diving suit lying on a rock on the shore of the island.
The dead man was reportedly identified later as Ruihan Yu, whose boat was last spotted from the air at 3:20 p.m. off Marshall Islands near north of Taongi Atoll on Nov. 30, 2019.
Ruihan’s identity was also reportedly established after his ocean rowing boat was recovered just a few feet from where the body was found.
“An approximately 24 feet long, white with red and blue stripes ocean rowing boat labeled with number 88 was also found in the area,” Sobejana said.
The recovered rowboat was the same as the one posted in the Marshall Islands journal dated December 6, 2019, the AFP-WestMinCom Commander said.
Based on an initial assessment made by the military and local officials of South Ubian, Ruihan and his row boat may have drifted from the Celebes Sea towards the seawaters of South Ubian.
The cadaver, being in the state of decomposition, was immediately buried in the area by the members of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPATs) while the ocean rowing boat was brought to South Ubian Municipal Hall in Barangay Bengkolon for proper disposition.
“We will provide the needed assistance to the family of Mr. Ruihan Yu if they want to go to Tawi-Tawi to check and verify if, indeed, it is the cadaver of Ruihan,” Sobejana said.
“Rest assured, the Yu family and their relatives will be safe and secured during their visit to Tawi-Tawi,” Sobejana added.
Yu had previously attempted to cross the Pacific from California to Australia in 2017 but had to abandon his attempt after his boat suffered a damaged rudder off the coast Hawaii and had to be rescued by the US Coast Guard (USCG) stationed in Honolulu.
On November 27, 2019 search and rescue (SAR) mission was reportedly conducted by the United States Coast Guard utilizing a C130 aircraft after a 911 call in Missouri from Ann Pang, a friend of Ruihan Yu’s cousin.
The search-and-rescue aircraft was dispatched from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands, but the search was called off after reaching over 120 hours with negative result.