Crew asleep when fatal boat fire started

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2012
Jung Woo 2

SEA DISASTER: Three Vietnamese men were killed and seven other crew suffered burns when Jung Woo No2 ignited last Wednesday morning in the Ross Sea.

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Injured crew have revealed they were asleep when a fatal fire broke out in their accommodation quarters in their South Korean fishing boat near Antarctica last week.

Three Vietnamese men were killed and seven other crew suffered burns when Jung Woo No2 ignited last Wednesday morning in the Ross Sea.

Vietnam ambassador Hong Cuong Nguyen yesterday told The Press he visited some of the injured men in Christchurch Hospital last Saturday.

"They just tell us they were sleeping. Something was burning in the room and they all rushed out of the room.

"They told me that they got out the lifeboat and waited for another ship to bring them on board."

It was then they realised three fellow crewmen were missing and presumed they had failed to escape the burning 51-metre ship, he said.

Nguyen said the crew were unsure what caused the fire.

Two fellow Korean toothfishing boats rescued survivors, including sister ship Jung Woo No3 and the Honjin 707.

American research boat Nathaniel B Palmer picked up the seven injured and took them to McMurdo last Friday, where an American Air Force C130 Hercules plane airlifted them to Christchurch that night.

Nguyen said three Vietnamese men were badly burned, the worst had burns to 25 per cent of his body, mainly his legs, hands and face.

All three were in a stable condition in hospital yesterday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

She said the other four men who had more minor burns, including one from Vietnam and three from Indonesia, were discharged last Saturday and had flown to Indonesia.

Of 40 crew, 23 were from Vietnam; others were from Indonesia, Russia and South Korea.

Nguyen said the South Korean embassy had asked the ship's owners, Sunwoo Corporation, and those coordinating the ongoing rescue to make all efforts to find and recover the dead men's bodies.

The embassy's office in Vietnam had met with the dead men's families, he said.

South Korean Embassy consul Suk-dong Woo said yesterday Korean icebreaker Araon, which had been at Korea's research station at Antarctica's Terra Nova Bay when the fire broke out, was expected to meet Jung Woo No3 on Thursday at the site 600 kilometres north-northeast from McMurdo.

It would bring the 30 remaining survivors to back to New Zealand.

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