HONOLULU (AP) — Two women from Hawaii who were rescued after being lost at sea defended their account of the ordeal Tuesday, insisting that a storm was whipping up 30-foot waves and near hurricane-force winds on the night they set sail, despite records that show no severe weather in the area.
The Coast Guard is reviewing records from the days after Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava put to sea in a 50-foot sailboat, but NASA satellite images for the days around their departure show no organized storms in the region where they planned to travel.
There was a tropical cyclone, but it was near Fiji, thousands of miles west of Hawaii. Localized squalls are known to pop up, but a storm lasting three days would have been visible on satellite and would have elicited mass warnings to the public to brace for the weather.
“We got into a Force 11 storm, and it lasted for two nights and three days,” Appel said.Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press on Monday that the two women had an emergency beacon but never turned it on because they did not fear for their lives. If they had, rescue would have been headed their way in a matter of minutes.
The woman “stated they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle said Monday.
The women said Tuesday that they did not use the beacon because they never felt they were in immediate danger, yet they have been quoted as saying they did not think they would survive another day, and that they were fearful during a dramatic tiger shark attack that lasted for six hours. Furthermore, the pair said they had been flagging vessels and sending distress signals for at least 98 days.
“We knew we weren’t going to make it,” Appel said. “So that’s when we started making distress calls.”
The Coast Guard outlined other inconsistencies, most notably on the timing of events.