Woman survived by clinging to buoy; 3rd diver found dead
A fisherman found female Korean diver Kim Eun clinging to a buoy near San Francisco town in Camotes Islands about two days after she and two other Korean divers went missing in Punta Engaño, Mactan.
Korean Consul General Lee Ki-Seog said he spoke over the phone with the woman, who has been identified as 31-year-old Kim Eun, while she was confined at the Ricardo L. Maningo Memorial Hospital in San Francisco town.
Kim reportedly said she and her buddies drifted for two days until they reached Camotes.
One male diver was swept away while the other swam to shore after tying her to a buoy.
Lee declined to name the divers, saying “it’s very personal information” and “strictly forbidden in Korea.”
“They found a buoy and the man tied the woman to the buoy. He told her to wait there and he would swim to the beach.
The other man moved another way,” Lee said.
Lee said the woman was found by a fisherman and brought to shore on a banca.
It took them an hour to reach the shore while it took the other diver about eight hours to swim to shore.
The diver who swam off was found lifeless on the shores of barangay Himensulan in San Francisco town early yesterday morning.
He was later identified as Heo Seung Yung, 45, the oldest among the three.
He was still in his wet suit and was wearing his dive watch, Himensulan barangay captain Rene Maranga said in an interview over radio dyLA.
“Nadagsa gyud siya sa baybayon. Diha na siya nakit-an nga naghayang diha dapit sa bas (He was washed ashore. He was seen lying on his back in the sand),” Maranga said.
Heo was found at 5:20 a.m. yesterday, more than 15 hours after Kim and diving instructor Baek Seung Kyoon, 34, were rescued off the coast of the same barangay.
Kim and Baek were brought to Lapu-Lapu City on a Navy vessel, which left Camotes at about the same time that Heo was found. The survivors are confined at the UC Med hospital in Mandaue City.
Also yesterday, another Korean diver said he almost drowned but was rescued by a motorboat crew in the waters near Movenpick Resort in Mactan.
Kwang Hon Jyo said he and two other Koreans went diving after renting equipment from a dive shop allegedly owned by New Grand Bleu Dive Resort.
The shop was issued a suspension order on Monday by Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza for renting out equipment even during bad weather to the three divers who went missing.
Mayor Radaza was upset when she learned about the near-drowning incident and the dive shop.
San Francisco health officer Dr. Emmanuel Almadin estimated that Heo died Tuesday midnight, probably by drowning.
His remains were brought by helicopter to the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) yesterday afternoon.
The three divers went missing in Punta Engaño waters on Sunday, when a gale warning was in effect in the Visayas due to storm Egay and the southwest monsoon.
Andy Berame, Lapu-Lapu City disaster officer, said the three divers drifted more than 50 kilometers from Punta Engaño in Mactan to San Francisco, Camotes for 50 to 54 hours.
Kim told a slightly different story to Lt. James Reyes, Navforcen spokesman.
Reyes said that based on Kim’s account, all three had reached a fish pen near Camotes on Tuesday.
Heo had offered to swim to shore and left his gear with his buddies, who waited at the fish pen.
Heo never came back, so Kim and Baek decided to float towards land.
Kim was found at around 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday by a fisherman, Mik-Mik Sunit, who alerted the security guard of a beach resort in barangay Himensulan.
She carried her and Heo’s diving gear.
Baek was found alive on the shore of the same barangay about four hours later.
Reyes said the three divers aborted their plan to dive 55 meters deep in Mactan due to the strong underwater current on Sunday.
They surfaced after reaching a depth of 35 meters and were buffeted by big waves.
They reportedly tried to swim back to Punta Engaño shores, but feared the big waves would throw them against the stones and cliff.
They decided to just float using their Buoyancy Control Device (BCD).
They also released their Surface Mounted Buoy (SMB), a diving gear usually in neon orange color to signal that divers need to be picked up.
No vessel was in sight because of the bad weather.
They drifted away from Mactan towards the north.
Reyes said the three divers didn’t lose hope despite the hunger and cold.
They suffered sunburn and scratches on their bodies.
Lack of food and water weakened them.
On Tuesday morning, Reyes said the three divers saw land and a fish pen.
Kim and Baek initially refused to be brought to a hospital because they had no money, but town officials insisted.
Gagal Maningo, information officer of San Francisco town, said he informed the Office of the Civil Defense regional office about the rescue of the two divers.
BACKSTORY: Koreans missing hours after dive
The gale warning over the Visayas was lifted Tuesday, but small vessels were still at risk due to strong winds caused by the southwest monsoon.
Big vessels were cleared for sea travel. Typhoon Falcon, which was spotted east of Calayan, Cagayan at 5 p.m. yesterday, is not expected to make landfall and will exit the Philippines by Friday.
The weekend is expected to be sunny, said Oscar Tabada said of Pagasa.
The Philippine Coast Guard said small vessels below 250 gross tonnage will be allowed to sail if the weather is good. /With Correspondent Melissa Q. Cabahug
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