Burned fishing boat, crew return to Honolulu Harbor

Captain Randy Nguyen stood on his burned out fishing boat recalling the moments before he decided to abandon ship after it caught on fire Thursday night.

“I tried to open the door and stop the fire, but I cannot. There was lots of smoke and big fire.  I tried two times but I could not,” said Nguyen.

The men were fishing 300 miles northwest of Johnston Atoll when the fire broke out.

He and his crew and a federal observer with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration were on the back of the vessel bringing in their lines, when they realized they were in trouble.

They worried about the 9,000 gallons of diesel still onboard, and jumped into a life raft to get away.

“We had to move far away from the boat because we could not do anything. If the fire grew, maybe the fuel tank would blow up,” said Nguyen.

The experienced captain was glad to be reunited with his family after a 14-hour ordeal drifting at sea.

Coast Guard and Honolulu fire investigators boarded the Golden Eagle II as it tied up at Pier 16 Tuesday, to determine what caused the blaze.

Coast guard crews said the fishermen began to worry when their attempts to flag down a passing ship late at night failed.

They suspect the tanker was the Panamanian-flagged Forestal Diamonte, which ultimately rescued them.

“They launched a flare but unfortunately, the Diamante did not see or hear anything, and that was there only way to reach out,” said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Jackson.

Jackson believes the crew’s emergency beacon was garbled because it was accidentally set on test mode, but it at least alerted the Coast Guard to their general area.

Once it was reset in the morning, it gave the rescuers their exact position.

Jackson also credits the ingenuity of the men to devise a sail out of a metal reflective blanket.

“It was kind of like a mirror flashing out there on the water, and it caught the eye of the C-130 aircraft crew which was able to identify where the vessel was and bring the Diamonte right to them,” said Jackson.

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