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Sailors recount Houthi attack and US Navy rescue

Sailors recount Houthi attack and US Navy rescue
Sailors recount Houthi attack and US Navy rescue


The crew of the Tutor, a Greek bulk carrier crossing the Red Sea to India, were on deck one sunny morning last week when they spotted what looked like a fishing boat in the distance with two people on board . The crew members thought it was nothing unusual, but moments later, the ship's captain said, they noticed a ship rushing toward their ship.

The boat appeared to be remote-controlled, the fishermen they thought they saw were mannequins, and the crew members shouted, “Inside!” Inside! as they ran for cover, according to a video posted by one of them on Facebook. The boat collided with their ship and exploded, shattering windows on their ship's deck and submerging the engine room in seawater and oil, the captain said.

We were all afraid, Capt. Christian Domrique said Monday in Manila, where he and the crew members, all from the Philippines, were brought after the U.S. Navy evacuated them from the stricken ship. This was the first time we all experienced this.

It is one of the most dramatic episodes in recent months in the Red Sea, where Yemen's Houthi militia has stepped up missile and drone attacks on ships in what it sees as a campaign to pressure Israel to end the war in Gaza.

Twenty-one sailors, including the captain, were saved from the Tutor; A crew member, who was in the engine room at the time of the collision, is still missing, according to Mr. Domrique and Philippine government officials.

Mr. Domrique, speaking on behalf of the crew members at a news conference organized by the Philippine government, said everyone remained on the ship's bridge after the attack while he contacted the the shipowner, the Philippine government and the United States. Marine, which patrols the waters to deter Houthi attacks. It also warned nearby ships to avoid their location.

Request immediate assistance. We were hit by a bomb, says Mr. Domrique on the radio, according to another video posted on Facebook.

About four hours after the collision, around 1 p.m., he said their stationary ship was rocked by another explosion, this time from a Houthi missile.

We didn't know what to do, said Mr. Domrique. We were attacked by both water and air. We just relied on prayers.

The crew members descended to a passage and camped there amid a scattering of water bottles, bags, extension cords and phone chargers. Some sailors slept on the stairs.

We are now hiding in the alley amidships because we don't know where the bombs will fall, John Flores, the ship's chief engineer, said in a series of text messages to his wife, who later published them on Facebook.

The crew managed to find oil to power a small generator that provided light, electrical power and internet access. But Mr Flores began to fear they would be attacked again, sending a text message to his wife saying their ship had been drifting for 10 hours waiting for rescuers.

Don't forget that I love you and the children very much, he wrote. Always be careful out there. I miss you all so much.

Eventually, U.S. Navy helicopters arrived and airlifted the ship's crew members, bringing them to a Navy cruiser, the USS Philippine Sea. The U.S. military, including many Filipino Americans, welcomed them warmly, Mr. Domrique said, singing karaoke songs and bringing them food. They were taken to Bahrain before flying to Manila.

Upon arriving at the airport, the crew members were seen smiling, but none spoke to reporters. After the press conference, Mr. Domrique hugged his wife, relief written on their faces.

We are all traumatized, he said at the press conference, holding back tears.




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