Decapitated boatman found on Tawi-Tawi beach
MANILA, Philippines – The headless body of a man and what appears to be his ocean rowboat were found on a beach in Tawi-Tawi on April 24, and after some investigation, the military in Western Mindanao said the man could be a Chinese adventurer who had been reported missing for almost 5 months.
A resident found the body on the shore of Kinapusan Island, Barangay Nusa-Nusa, South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi, and immediately reported it to the 36th Marine Company, Marine Battalion Landing Team 6 stationed locally.
Marine troopers from the battalion’s Bentawlan Detachment, municipal police, and barangay responders went to the site and found the decapitated body in a blue diving suit lying on a rock on the shoreline, said the military’s Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander Colonel Arturo Rojas in a media release on Friday, May 1.
Nearby, the responders also found an ocean rowboat approximately 24 feet long, with red and blue stripes and the number 88 on its hull.
The body was decomposing, and the barangay responders immediately buried it in the same area. The rowboat was taken to the South Ubian Municipal Hall in Barangay Bengkolan for “proper disposition,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said.
Authorities suspect the body and the rowboat drifted on the current from the Celebes Sea until they were washed ashore on Kinapusan Island.
The 2nd Marine Brigade reached out to local governments in the vicinity, as well as to their Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts, and their inquiry pointed to recent publications about the Chinese national Ruihan Yu, who in late 2019 had set out to row solo across the Pacific Ocean from the US West Coast.
The boat found on the island matched photos of Yu’s boat on the publications, including the December 6, 2019 issue of the Marshall Islands Journal.
Adventurer in distress
On November 27, 2019, Yu made a distress call from 360 nautical miles north-northeast of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to a Facebook post by his friend Lia Ditton. Through a satellite phone call, the US Coast Guard learned from Yu that “his vessel had capsized, that he had lost all survival gear, including a life vest, and he was clinging to the hull of his vessel. He reported that the engine was flooding, and the vessel was sinking lower in the water.”
The US Coast Guard dispatched a C-130 plane from Honolulu, Hawaii to rescue Yu, and it arrived and spotted him more than 7 hours later. The crew dropped a life raft for Yu but the plane had to refuel immediately. When it returned to the area, the crew spotted the life raft but not Yu or his rowboat.
The rescuers kept returning to the area on November 28 and 29 but they only spotted the boat and the life raft, not Yu.
The boat was last spotted from the air at 3:20 pm of November 30, 2019 off the Marshall Islands, north of the Taongi Atoll, the AFP Westmincom said. The search was called off at sunset.
It was not Yu’s first attempt at sailing solo across the Pacific. In 2017, he set out from San Francisco, California, for Australia, but his rudder got damaged as he sailed off Hawaii. The US Coast Guard in Honolulu rescued him then.
"We will provide the needed assistance to the family of Mr. Ruihan Yu if they want to go to Tawi-Tawi to check and verify if indeed it is the cadaver of Ruihan," said AFP Westmincom chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, who guaranteed the security of Yu’s family should they decide to visit. – Rappler.com