Rescued scuba diver recounts ordeal

Survivor of 'washing machine' currents says she drank from floating coconuts, drifted from group

Kyodo

One of the Japanese women rescued after disappearing while scuba diving off the Indonesian island of Bali recounted on Tuesday her harrowing ordeal of being swallowed up by strong currents and surviving on coconuts.

Saori Furukawa, one of the two locally based Japanese diving instructors who were leading five others on a diving expedition, said in email responses to the media that the currents at the time were “like the water streams in a washing machine.”

Furukawa, 37, was rescued along with four others Monday and is in a hospital.

The seven divers disappeared on an outing Friday afternoon in waters near Nusa Lembongan Island, southeast of Bali. Five were rescued Monday, one was found dead on Tuesday in waters near Bali, and the last is still being searched for.

Furukawa said that after she and the others surfaced after the dive on Friday the weather abruptly changed. They were caught in a downpour and strong winds, and visibility was bad.

To quench their thirst, they drank from coconuts they found floating in the water, and woke each other up whenever someone felt they were losing consciousness, she said, adding they stayed close to each other by holding hands until the next morning.

Furukawa decided to seek help and swam toward a tugboat that came nearby on Saturday morning but failed to reach it due to the tide. She said she tried to return to the group but could not as she was swept away by the tide.

By late Saturday afternoon, Furukawa reached some rocks after swimming for several hours. She said she drank rainwater as well as droplets from leaves, tried not to get wet in the rain by sheltering behind a rock, and kept her body temperature from falling.

On Monday, as she was lying on a sandy shoreline unable to move, she heard the voices of people who were searching for her, she said, and was soon transported to the hospital by helicopter.

She expressed her gratitude to the people who rescued her, but said she is “worried and cannot sleep” as the search continues for the missing diver.

“I feel so frustrated that I myself cannot take part in the search,” she said.

Forensic doctors identified the body of the dead scuba driver as that of 59-year-old Ritsuko Miyata. In addition, she was recognized by her husband and son from a wedding ring on her left hand.

“The victim may have died about three days ago,” Felix Sangkalia, chief of the Disaster Victim Investigation of the Bali Police Headquarters, told reporters.

The search continues for Shoko Takahashi, a 35-year-old local diving instructor who is the only member of the diving party who remains unaccounted for.

Miyata, wearing a wet suit, swim fins and buoyancy control device, was found at 6:10 p.m. in Serangan about 20 km away from where the group went missing.

  • phu

    I’m very glad they found most of the group, and this is definitely a tragedy for the family of at least one diver… but I can’t help thinking this is almost criminally negligent. They had TWO “dive instructors” with them and neither had any effective emergency measures in place for bad weather? No way to call for help, no GPS device, no plan in case they were separated? These people were responsible for their own lives and the lives of five others. It may be that this is just a really awful perfect storm of unforeseeable circumstances, but that’s not what I’m getting out of what information is presented here.