'Miracle' boys get Southland help

02:55, Nov 27 2010

If ever there was a demonstration of an Invercargill man's workmanship, the miraculous rescue of three Tokelauan boys found adrift after 50 days at sea in one of his boats must be it.

Frews Marine owner Brendon Frew, who builds aluminium boats at his Otatara business, was flabbergasted like people the world over with news the teenagers were hauled aboard the Sanford tuna boat San Nikunau on Wednesday.

The boys, Samuel Perez and Filo Filo, both 15, and Edward Nasau, 14, disappeared from Atafu Island on October 5 and were presumed lost forever.

But Mr Frew's eyes grew wider when he saw a photo of the boys with the dinghy that helped keep them alive in the news.

From front on it looked suspiciously like one of his, a side on view confirmed it.

"They were in one of ours," he said, a possibility that hadn't even entered his mind until he saw it for himself.

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The 4.1m aluminium Frewza dinghy was one of 12 sent to Tokelau about a year ago after a doctor from the island bought one each for members of his family.

"They're a lifeblood for those guys over there for fishing and travel. Boats are as important to them as cars are to us."

Even though Mr Frew's satisfaction could have easily been directed to the boys being found on his dinghy it was instead solely reserved for the fact they were alive and in reasonably good shape.

"It's just amazing they survived. They would have been totally exposed, without any shelter at all."

The boys survived their ordeal with a paltry diet of a couple coconuts, some rain water and a seagull.

If a boat was lost at sea, the vessel would usually turn up eventually, but often empty.

For them to be alive it was phenomenal, Mr Frew said.

"They'd given up hope; they even had a memorial service for the boys."

The lost hope now also explains another order made by the doctor almost a month after the boys went missing.

"In late October the doctor ordered a replacement. It's only now that we put it together."

Mr Frew said it was great to have some good news in what has been a rough couple of weeks.

After the boys were taken aboard the fishing boat they were transferred to a Fijian Navy boat heading for Suva, which was expected to strike land yesterday.

"We got to them in a miracle," first mate Tai Fredricsen, of the Bay of Islands, said from the San Nikunau on Wednesday as it headed to Fiji with its extra cargo.

"We saw a small vessel, a little speedboat on our bows, and we knew it was a little weird," he said.

"We had enough smarts to know there were people in it and those people were not supposed to be there." The boys started waving.

"I pulled the vessel up as close as I could to them and asked them if they needed any help they said `very much so'. They were ecstatic to see us.

"They were very skinny, but physically in good health, compared to what they have been through."

The boys were put on an intravenous drip but they were able to sip water and soon wanted real food.

Nasau, who is a cousin of all the boys and is also the Faipule or representative of Atafu, said the boys would be flown to Samoa today and will leave for Tokelau, which has no airport, on December 16.

While the rescue has prompted international headlines around the world, there is an intense local story which Nasau conceded was raising questions.

Nasau said there were rumours about what the boys had really been up to.

"I was concentrating on their safety and there will be time for investigation later."

There were always rumours and he was not sure if they were true.

"They will have to answer some questions when they get back."

-with Stuff

The Southland Times