Ministry of National Defense officials and Navy Command Headquarters confirmed one fatality and three persons injured aboard the Hsiang Li Sheng (翔利昇), a Taiwanese fishing boat, when the vessel was struck by a missile in waters southeast of Penghu County in the Taiwan Strait.
Fishing boat captain Huang Wen-chung (黃文忠) was killed when the supersonic Hsiung Feng III missile penetrated the stern of the vessel. The missile did not explode on impact and sank into the water about 40 nautical miles (74.1km) from its launch site at Zuoying Military Harbor in Kaohsiung.
The captain’s son, Huang Ming-chuan (黃明泉), as well as a Vietnamese crew member and a Filipino crew member, sustained minor injuries and were treated at a local hospital.
The vessel was towed back to Kaohsiung Harbor with the help of coast guard patrol ships.
The stern of the fishing boat has a hole where the missile penetrated the vessel, causing the boat’s electrical wiring box to explode.
Huang Ming-chuan said they were trawling for shrimp about 16 nautical miles west of Chimei Islet, adding that at the time of the incident, he and two crew members were sleeping while his father piloted the ship.
“We were woken by a loud explosion and I saw the ship’s ceiling collapse. I was hit by some debris and cut, then the cabin caught fire,” he said.
Huang Ming-chuan said he went to check the pilot room and found his father dead, having apparently suffered head injuries.
He said that he used a satellite telephone to call his family in Kaohsiung, saying: “The ship has exploded, and father has died. Now the ship is sinking, get help to save us quickly.”
At a news conference called by Naval Command Headquarters, officials said the missile that hit the fishing ship did not explode on impact, because it was designed to attack warships and explode on impact with a metal hull. As the Hsiang Li Sheng is made of wood, fiberglass and other lightweight materials, the missile penetrated the stern without exploding.
Naval officials said the electronic signals emitted by the fishing boat might have caused the missile’s radar guidance system to lock onto it as a target.
The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office has opened an investigation into the incident to determine if there is a case for criminal prosecution.
“The Ministry of National Defense sincerely apologizes for the incident that caused the death of the captain and injured the other crew members,” ministry spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said, adding that the ministry has also asked the navy to provide compensation and assistance to the families of the victims.
Meanwhile, during a legislative floor session yesterday, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) expressed sadness over the death of the captain and regret over the incident.
He said he has asked his deputy to meet with the victim’s family.
Vice Premier Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀) traveled to Kaohsiung on behalf of the premier to comfort the deceased captain’s family and express his condolences.
“First of all, I would like to offer my condolences to the Huang family on behalf of Premier Lin Chuan, and show the government cares about this accident,” he said. “The premier has asked the military to investigate how the accident occurred as soon as possible.”
“The government will shoulder 100 percent of the responsibility when the investigation is completed,” he added.
Additional reporting by Loa Iok-sin and CNA
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