Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Skipper wanted to be buried at home

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS:The family of captain Wu Lai-yu say they still don’t know why the US Navy started shooting at their father’s captured ship

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Wu Hui-hwa, left, and Wu Tien Li-shuo, a daughter and the widow of Wu Lai-yu, a Taiwanese fishing vessel captain who was killed during a US attack on pirates that had hijacked his ship, ask the US to apologize at a press conference in Taipei on Tuesday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The family of a Taiwanese fishing boat captain who was killed in a US anti-piracy operation off Somalia on May 10 is pleading with US officials to “deliver his corpse back to Taiwan.”

That could be a mission impossible for the US, which has said Wu Lai-yu’s (吳來于) burial at sea was held the day following the engagement with the pirates. The US said Wu was “laid to rest in his ship,” the Jih Chun Tsai No. 68, which was sunk off the coast of Somalia.

Wu’s family said the skipper wished to be “buried in his homeland,” which his youngest daughter, Wu Hui-hwa (吳惠華), said she learned from a letter from her father that she received in late May.


“I can imagine the extent my father suffered [while being held by pirates] so that he thought he could die any time, leading him to write the letter,” she said by telephone on Tuesday night after presenting the appeal to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) earlier the same day.

The letter was written in September, six months after the 79-tonne tuna trawler was seized while operating 395 nautical miles (732km) southeast of Somalia’s Cape Guardafui and 900 nautical miles northeast of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said the deceased captain’s daughter, Wu Hui-hwa, a college graduate.


“Had the economic condition of my family not been such a concern, my father would not have had to travel such a long distance to fish at the risk of his life,” she said. “The last word he gave us was that he wished his funeral rites to be simple and frugal.”

As a fisherman’s daughter, Wu Hui-hwa had been used to a life where she only saw her father once a year. Then, on March 30 last year, her father did not make his usual telephone call home as he always did when he was at sea.

Wu Hui-hwa is the youngest in her family, but she took charge of the effort to secure the safe return of her father.

Those efforts, however, were in vain after her father was “killed inadvertently by ammunition fired” by the USS Stephen W. Groves, a US frigate operating under a NATO-led counterpiracy operation, according to a report released by the US Fifth Fleet.

That happened just a few weeks after her family finally managed to get the pirates to agree to a smaller ransom for 50-year-old Wu Lai-yu, down from an alleged US$8 million, following a year of negotiations.

The US’ report only details the sequence of events during the engagement with the pirates, “and we still don’t know what caused the US to open fire,” Wu Hui-hwa said.

From what they were told by two Chinese fishermen, Li Yaxiong (李亞雄) and Cheung Chiping (張志平), who survived the crossfire and posted the captain’s letter to his family after returning to China, Wu Hui-hwa said she doubted the US had told them the whole truth.


“The two Chinese fishermen told us that when they were taken by the US Navy from the sleeping quarters in the hold, they did not see any pirates, dead or injured people, or blood stains. They saw traces of gunshot residue on the vessel, but the ship seemed to them to be in fine condition,” Wu Hui-hwa said in the written appeal.

Li and Cheung also told Wu’s family that the US Navy did not tell them that the captain, with whom they had been friends for more than 10 years, had been killed and that officers refused their request to tether the Jih Chun Tsai No. 68 to the US ship, she said.

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