Palau Arrests Chinese Fishermen, 1 Dies After Being Hit By Gunfire; 2 Officers and Pilot Missing in Effort to Film Their Burning Vessel

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Guam – At least 5 Chinese fishermen were arrested and one has died from gunshot wounds sustained during an operation by Palauan police to intercept a Chinese vessel that Palau says was illegally fishing in their territorial waters.

Meanwhile, 2 Palauan police officers and their pilot are reported missing after they flew to the scene in an effort to film the fishing vessel which had been set on fire.

It happened Sunday off the Palauan coast.

All 5 fishermen are believed to be Chinese nationals. They were taken into custody after they fled their burning ship.

Assistant Palauan Attorney General Timothy McGillicuddy filed criminal charges Monday against the 5 fishermen Monday. They are identified in his complaint as Ten Jin Len; Yang Ke Bao; Tan Hao; Lin Dao Guan and Tan Bin. Among the charges they are facing are “unlawful entry”; “illegal fishing”;  and “conspiracy to commit unlawful acts”.

READ the Criminal Complaint filed by Assistant Palauan AG McGillicuddy HERE

In a statement posted on his FaceBook page, Palauan President Johnson Toribiong  said the crew had set their vessel ablaze “to destroy the ship and its cargo.”

In addition, President Toribiong called it a “sad day for Palau. Two of our finest officers [and their pilot] are still missing”

Officers Earl Decherong and Willy Mays Towai were aboard a Cesna 185 piloted by Frank Ohlinger, an American citizen.  According to President Toribiong’s statement, they were on a police mission to film the Chinese fishing vessel. On its return flight the navigational system failed , the pilot radioed that he had run out of fuel and was going to make a water landing. Then all contact was lost.

The U.S. Coast Guard has joined in the search for the 3.  A helicopter from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s yacht the “Octopus” is also involved in the search. Allen and his yacht were recently at Guam and accompanied James Cameron’s Mermaid Sapphire for Cameron’s historic solo dive of the Marinas trench.

In an email exchange with PNC News Assistant Palauan AG McGillicuddy disputed various international media accounts which describe the Chinese fisherman as dying in a hail of gunfire. He calls those accounts “inaccurate in two ways: 1) the statment is not in the filed charges, and 2) substance of the statement is untrue.”

READ the AFP account of the event in Singapore’s Strait’s Times HERE

READ the report on ZNews.com HERE

READ the report on RTHK HERE

READ President Toribiong’s Statement which was posted on on his FaceBook page below:

Johnson Toribiong
Dear friends,

Today is a sad day for Palau. Two of our finest and bravest police officers who were on a small aircraft ( Cesna 185) yesterday under the command Captain Frank Ohlinger, an American licensed pilot, who left at 3:30 pm and were scheduled to return at 5 pm, are still missing. They left on a police mission to film the area where a PRC’s mothership involved in the raid of Kayangel State’s marine resources was burned by its own crew to destroy the ship and its cargo. On its return flight the aircraft’s navigational system failed. The captain declared at 8:16 that he had a May Day May Day flight with limited fuel and was about to make a landing by gliding the aircraft into the water, and soon thereafter contact was lost. Officer Earl Decherong, one of the two Police officers on board, using a radio telephone called to say they were gliding to make a water landing and that they could see no light or land. Efforts to help and rescue the aircraft and its captain and passenger began late afternoon yesterday. As of this morning the US Coast Guard using their ship, C130 and helicopter along with the Palauan officers and local volunteers utilizing their own vessels and helicopter (belonging to Paul Alan’s yacht, the Octopus) are working desperately to find the missing individuals, but at this time they have neither found the aircraft or the captain and the officers. The other Palauan police officer, is Willy Mays Towai. I ask for your prayers for the captain and these two fine young Police Officers.