Rescued Spaniards arrive in Borneo after 10-day sea ordeal

The couple will travel to Spain on May 17, but relative says they might return to Malaysia

Spaniards Marta Miguel and David Hernández in the Hospital Gleneagles in Malaysia.
Spaniards Marta Miguel and David Hernández in the Hospital Gleneagles in Malaysia.Noel Caballero (EFE)

Two Spaniards who were rescued in the South China Sea after drifting for 10 days arrived at the Malaysian airport of Kota Kinabalu on Friday.

Marta Miguel, 30, and David Hernández, 29, were greeted by family members who had flown to the area to help with the search operation.

Sporting a beard, a red shirt and a wide smile, Hernández stepped out of the aircraft, walked down the ladder, and tearfully embraced a relative.

The sea is merciless, but it was also generous with us

David Hernández

In statements to the Spanish news agency Efe, they said that they never lost hope that someone would find them.

“We always had that hope. We never thought that this was the end,” said Marta Miguel.

“The sea is merciless, but it was also generous with us,” added David Hernández, alluding to the fish that they were able to eat.

The couple will fly to Spain on May 17, said Luis Miguel, Marta’s father, in statements to the Spanish public radio station RNE.

Luis Miguel said he did not rule out the possibility that Marta and David might go back to Malaysia if they feel that “they have to make their dreams come true.” The couple had settled on the island of Borneo in January, and they were working at a tourist resort with a view to opening their own business later on.

But Marta’s father said he hopes they will not return. “I wouldn’t like that, it’s been very traumatic for everyone, themselves included,” he admitted.

After being rescued by Vietnamese fishermen on Thursday, the Spaniards and two boat companions – their boss and a co-worker at the resort – were flown on a Bombardier CL415 seaplane from a Malaysian naval base to Kota Kinabalu, on the northwest coast of Borneo.

They have been through two medical checkups and were found to be in good health, according to Spanish diplomatic sources.

Missing since May 2

The boat went missing on May 2, during a journey from the island of Balambangan to Kudat, on Borneo. The trip normally takes around two hours. According to Luis Miguel, Marta’s father, a large wave tipped the vessel over, and after that the engine would not start.

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Because they lost everything that was on board when the boat capsized – including their bottled water – they took sips of the rainwater that they slowly filtered in a bag. The 12- to 15-meter vessel had life jackets but no GPS system.

Malaysian authorities said they learned about their whereabouts when they caught a Vietnamese ship fishing illegally in Malaysian waters. The fishermen told them that two other ships flying the Vietnamese flag had rescued the group.

“We are still gathering information about what happened,” said Captain Robert Teh Geck Chuan, director of the Search and Rescue Department.

English version by Susana Urra.

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