Fisherman's quiet saviours found

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013
 Tania and Steve Egerton
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
KINDNESS OF STRANGERS: Tania and Steve Egerton say that in rescuing Ye Aung they did what any other Southlander would.

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A couple credited with saving the life of a hopelessly lost Burmese fisherman who escaped his employers six years ago say they did what any Southlander would.

Tania and Steve Egerton, from Eastern Bush, have come forward after a plea from Ye Aung for Southland Times readers to help find them.

Mr Aung said the couple saved his life by giving him food and shelter after he jumped ship from a Korean fishing vessel at Bluff and wandered 122km in the direction of Te Anau, hoping it would lead him to Lyttelton.

By the third night of walking non-stop, he was cold, wet, hungry, lost and desperate for help.

He stumbled on the Egertons' house about 3am and knocked on the door.

This week Mr Egerton said he had initially been suspicious but soon realised Mr Aung meant no harm.

Mr Aung told them his "awful story of hardship" on the Korean fishing boat and about his 122km walk in search of help.

"That night was one of the worst hoar frosts of the winter . . . he was so thin and cold and looked so down and out," Mr Egerton said.

They gave him a bed for the night, fed him and dropped him off at Fairfax to hitch a lift the next morning.

Coming to the aid of someone in distress was a Southland thing and anyone would have done the same, Mr Egerton said.

"When people need help you just give it . . . I never thought it would save a life."

Mrs Egerton said she had seen Mr Aung earlier that July morning, walking in light clothing.

"I said to my friend, who on earth would be walking in this weather?"

The couple were surprised when they read in the The Southland Times that Mr Aung was searching for them.

"We worried about him and often wondered what happened to him . . . we were just talking about him last week and didn't think he would still be in New Zealand.

"This is so surreal," Mrs Egerton said.

The couple were pleased Mr Aung had made a good life for himself in Auckland and were looking forward to meeting him again when he returned to Southland to retrace his first steps in New Zealand.

Mr Aung this week said he wanted to meet the couple and thank them personally.

He said he did not expect to find the couple because he thought they had moved.

"I can't believe it . . . I am excited to meet them again, I can't stop thinking about it," he said.

Mr Aung thanked the Southlanders who helped him find the Egertons.

"I have been so lucky with the good people I have met in Southland."

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After he left the Egertons' house in 2006, he hitched a lift to Invercargill, where he was introduced to Southland Multicultural Council president Brian Bellett and his wife, Donna, with whom he still kept in touch.

"It was a very cold night. He was lucky to meet the couple who took him in," Mr Bellett said.

Mr Bellett introduced Mr Aung to Burmese man Than Thait, who had been studying at SIT that year.

Mr Thait arranged for Mr Aung to live with him and his family in Auckland.

Mr Aung is now working as an apprentice mechanic and has applied for citizenship.

collette.devlin@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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