Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Boat refugee meets with savior’s family

VIETNAM WAR:The late captain Song Chin-an took his ship on an eight-day detour so that the crew could drop 29 Vietnamese in mantou-laden life rafts in Singapore

By Ke Yu-hao and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Former Dachuan 1 radio operator Huang Tsung-shun, second left, who saved Vietnamese refugee Thai-Nguyen Dang, second right, pose for a picture along with Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Tsai Fu-ching, right, and others in Kaohsiung on May 1.

Photo: Wang Jung-hsiang, Taipei Times

When the South Vietnamese regime fell in April 1975, Thai-Nguyen Dang fled the country by boat, only to find himself stranded at sea with 28 other helpless refugees, dead engines and a storm brewing on the horizon.

Had the Taiwanese captain of Dachuan 1 (大川一號) not chanced upon the drifting boat people and safely brought them to Singapore, all on board would surely have perished, Dang said as he visited Kaohsiung on Tuesday.

Dang, now a businessman in the US, said that he had often wondered about the identity of his savior, who refused to give the refugees his name, but said that he hailed from Kaohsiung.

In April, Dang visited the city and searched for the captain with local officials, but his efforts were to no avail until Huang Tsung-shun (黃宗舜), a former radio operator on the Dachuan 1, read his story and reached out shortly before he was to leave Taiwan.

Huang told Dang that the captain was named Song Chin-an (宋謹安) and died in 2009, but put him in touch with Song’s family, Dang said.

Returning to Kaohsiung with his wife and son on Monday, Dang met the Song family at the city’s public military cemetery, where he paid his respects to Song in a tearful religious ceremony before his spirit tablet.

After being contacted by the Kaohsiung City Government, former first mate Chen Wen-yi (陳文義) and the family of former chief engineer Chou Tsun-hung (周遵洪), who had passed away, attended the captain’s honorary banquet and spoke with Dang.

“The captain’s heart was too good,” Huang said. “After Vietnam fell, there were so many refugee boats on the sea.”

Transporting the refugees to Singapore added eight days to the ship’s itinerary, and Song had the life rafts that they were to be dropped off in laden with mantou (steamed buns) rations and water from the crew’s stores, Huang said.

Song Chia-yuan (宋家元), a retired former deputy chief executive at an investment firm, said that his father told him the story of the rescue many times during his childhood.

Song Chia-yuan now leads the Syin-Lu Social Welfare Foundation and his adult children have started families of their own.

Additional reporting by Wang Jung-hsiang

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