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Fishermen rescue three airmen trapped off shore

Date Posted: 2007-03-02

Disaster was averted Saturday during a diving excursion off Okinawa’s northwest coast.

Three Air Force men had been boating and diving near Kunigami Village Sosu area when high tide and rip tides pulled one airman 200 meters into the sea, onto a reef. The site was near the military’s Okuma Recreation Resort. An attempt by two airmen to rescue their colleague failed.

A 28-year-old Japanese woman traveling with the men sized up the situation and called for help from the 11th Maritime Agency. They, in turn, called Kunigami Village looking for a boat. Recognizing the urgency, Mayor Naoyuki Maekawa instead asked three local village fishermen to aid in the rescue.

The rescue, made by maneuvering a small fishing boat through the shallow waters to the reef, took about an hour. Once ashore, local residents warmed the airmen at fires built on the beach. The mayor says he’s seen numerous incidents of drownings at the point, and said the airmen were “extremely fortunate”.

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