Sailor survives 14 hours in Pacific Ocean by clinging to abandoned buoy

Engineer is rescued by his own ship after falling overboard between New Zealand and Pitcairn

A sailor who fell overboard from a supply ship in the Pacific Ocean at 4am spent more than 14 hours clinging to an old fishing buoy before being rescued.

Vidam Perevertilov, the chief engineer on board the Silver Supporter, was hauled back on deck nearly a full day after falling overboard on February 16th as his freighter made a supply run between New Zealand’s Tauranga port on the country’s North Island and the isolated British territory of Pitcairn.

He later told his son he had been feeling dizzy after finishing a night shift in the engine room, and had walked out on to the deck to recover, before falling.

“He doesn’t remember falling overboard. He may have fainted,” Mr Perevetilov’s son Marat told New Zealand’s Stuff. “His will to survive was strong, but he told me until the sun came up he was struggling to stay afloat,” Marat said.

Mr Perevetilov remembers gaining consciousness, seeing his ship sailing away into the dark. The crew did not notice he was missing for six hours.

The ship radioed a distress call and French navy aircraft joined the search from Polynesia, while France’s meteorological service examined winds and currents to determine probable drift patterns.

Crew onboard were able to determine Mr Perevertilov had been on board at 4am because he had filed a log report at that time.At the time he went overboard, the Silver Supporter was about 400 nautical miles south of French Polynesia’s southernmost Austral Islands.

In the middle of the ocean, with his ship out of sight over the horizon, Mr Perevertilov (52) made a decision at dawn that would save his life.

He saw a black speck on the horizon and, unsure what it was, swam towards it.

The dot on the horizon turned out to be an abandoned fishing buoy. Mr Perevertilov clung to it until he was found at about 6pm. His ship was in a set search pattern when a crew member heard a faint voice, and a lookout saw a hand raised from the ocean.

Mr Perevertilov was pulled from the water exhausted but unhurt.

The British high commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke, who also serves as the governor of Pitcairn Island, told the New Zealand Herald everyone was “hugely relieved” to hear of the rescue.

“We all feared for the worst, given the sheer scale of the Pacific Ocean, and its strong currents,” she said. “So the fact that the Silver Supporter found him, and he survived is just amazing.”

Mr Perevetilov’s son told Stuff his father had left the fishing buoy in the sea, rather than taking it as a souvenir. “It’s funny. He said he wanted to leave it there, so it could save another person’s life.” – Guardian