Doubts surface regarding story told by women lost at sea for months

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Coast Guard officials are having difficulty grasping the logistics of the story of two Hawaii women who were recently lost at sea for five months.

On Friday, the women told The Associated Press that they had six different emergency signaling devices that were all dead at the time they were in distress. Furthermore, the captain of the Sea Nymph claims the women made contact with his ship in June near Tahiti and said they were not in distress and would make it home safely. That point of contact occurred after the women say they sustained significant damage to their vessel.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Scott Carr told The Associated Press that their review of the incident and subsequent interviews with the survivors revealed that they had the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) aboard but never turned it on.

During the post-incident debriefing by the Coast Guard, Jennifer Appel, who was on the sailboat with Tasha Fuiava, was asked if she had the emergency beacon on board. Appel replied she did, and that it was properly registered.

“We asked why during this course of time did they not activate the EPIRB. She had stated they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle, who was on the call to the AP with Carr.

Carr also said the Coast Guard made radio contact with a vessel that identified itself as the Sea Nymph in June near Tahiti, and the captain said they were not in distress and expected to make land the next morning. That was after the women reportedly lost their engines and sustained damage to their rigging and mast.

Experts say some of the details of the women’s story do not add up.

A retired Coast Guard officer who was responsible for search and rescue operations said that if the women used the emergency beacon, they would have been found.

“If the thing was operational and it was turned on, a signal should have been received very, very quickly that this vessel was in distress,” Phillip R. Johnson said Monday in a telephone interview from Washington State.

The women also said they had six forms of communication that all went dead. “There’s something wrong there,” Johnson said.

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