Forty-two-year-old Tseng Yung-fa (曾永發), missing for 55 hours after being swept out to sea near Hualien County on Friday last week, was found alive near the coast Changbin Township’s (長濱) Changyuan Village (樟原) in Taitung County close to noon on Sunday, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said, terming it a miracle as Tseng cannot swim.
Members of the Bureau of Eastern Territory Patrols 82 Unit who found Tseng on Sunday said it was a miracle for someone who did not know how to swim to be washed up on the coast about 80km from where he had been swept off his boat after being adrift in the cold sea for more than 55 hours and only suffering from minor hypothermia.
Coast guard personnel said Tseng had two children and his fiancee was nine months pregnant, which provided the impetus behind his decision to venture out to sea near the Hualien River (花蓮溪) outlet at 4am on Saturday last week to capture young eels to sell.
The bureau said it mobilized every unit available around the Hualien-Taitung area, dispatching land, sea, and air search parties to locate Tseng, but did not find him until Sunday.
The strong northeasterly monsoon winds occurring during the season and the north-to-south direction of the currents might have carried him all along the east coast, Lin said.
Lin Han-tso (林漢佐), the chief petty officer in charge of 82nd Unit said he was about to end the search at 11am on Sunday, when he suddenly had a feeling he must extend the search another five minutes.
The unit found a man lying on the rocks not 20 paces away soon after the decision, and after confirming his identity they radioed in hospital transport for Tseng.
Recounting the incident, Tseng said he immediately abandoned the chest-high waterproof suit he wore because the water going into the suit would have weighed him down when he was swept out to sea.
Although he did not know how to swim, Tseng said he grabbed onto the log floating by him and hung on to it during the two days he spent adrift at sea, adding that he had also told himself not to fall asleep.
“I didn’t want to die, I wanted to marry my fiancee and see my daughter come into the world,” Tseng said, adding that it was the only thought that had supported him throughout the two days.
Tseng has promised not to waste a second chance at life that he says his family gave him through their ceaseless prayers and pledged to do something for society as a token of his appreciation for life.
Tseng’s fiancee, Hsu Yi-hsin (許藝馨), said she prayed near the shore for two days straight, adding that her unborn daughter had kicked violently at the news of Tseng’s rescue, a sign she said that both mother and daughter felt great joy at Tseng’s miraculous survival.