A helicopter pilot searching for schools of tuna spotted two small boats drifting in Marshall Islands waters, leading to the rescue of four islanders who had floated hundreds of kilometres from Kiribati.
The two 15-foot boats had drifted from Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati.
The Marshall Islands Journal reported that all four were currently in Majuro awaiting repatriation to Kiribati, which is expected to happen this Sunday.
Although the three fishermen in a wooden boat drifted for 28 days and a 14-year-old drifted by himself for 11 days in a fiberglass boat, they ended up within five miles of each other when spotted by the helicopter from the purse seiner Kwila 888, a Papua New Guinea-flagged vessel, earlier this month.
Arawatau Miito, 57, Toatu Tiwai, 40, and Tenanora Taiki, 22, drifted for at least 28 days in the 15-foot wood boat after experiencing engine problems.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Bwanikatang Tebuanna drifted for about 11 days in the 15-foot fiberglass type boat after an incoming tide washed his boat away from Tarawa.
He did not know how to operate the small outboard engine on the boat. The boy had nothing to eat the entire 11 days, while the three men were able to catch fish and sharks with the fishing gear they had on board for their fishing expedition.
All were checked at Majuro hospital on arrival in Majuro earlier in the week. Only one stayed overnight for treatment of dehydration, while the rest were released after a check up.
The three men and the teenager knew nothing of each other until the Kwila 888 picked them up.
The vessel cut short its fishing trip to deliver the group of drifters to Majuro last weekend.
While the vessel's helicopter pilot said he wasn't feeling well on the day of the rescue, he took some pain medication and forced himself to pilot the helicopter in search of fish - which is when he spotted the two boats.
Fishing Master and Captain Yuan Tsai Chen said that the fishing vessel's helicopter spotted two speed boats drifting about 25 miles away from Kwila 888.
I-Kiribati are frequently lost at sea, a fact underlined by the fact this was the second time one of the three men - Miito - was rescued after an open ocean drift.
Meantime, rescuing these two boats marked the third ocean rescue - fourth if counted by boats saved - for Captain Chen. The previous two rescues were about six years ago on different fishing vessels.
The first involved three people from Kiribati who were lost at sea for one month, and the latter was two people who drifted for about 20 days.
The four I-Kiribati are staying in Majuro with the family of Kiribati Community President Karotu Tiba, who is a lawyer in the government's Public Defender's Office.