KOTA KINABALU: Three villagers owe their lives to the life jackets they were wearing as they managed to survive 18 hours in open waters after their boat capsized.
The trio, Helmi Sadron, 28; Mohamad Sahibi, 58; and Ansar Kirinoh, 34, were in a boat which overturned in choppy waters off Sabah's Pulau Banggi on Thursday (Nov 5).
They were rescued by other villagers at about 7am Friday (Nov 6).
Family members had alerted authorities that the trio went missing when they did not return home to Kg Lagaton in the Pitas district.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sabah and Labuan director Laksamana Pertama Datuk Mohd Rosli Abdullah said the trio left their coastal village to go to Karakit town in Pulau Banggi to buy groceries at about 2.30pm Thursday.
He said after the Maritime Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) Sabah was alerted at about 5.30pm Thursday, a search and rescue operation with two vessels from the Navy and marine police were deployed, along with the help of other villagers in boats.
Rosli said villagers found the three men safe near Pulau Malawali in the neighbouring Kudat district.
"All three were taken to Kg Narutnung and family members confirmed they were the three missing men," he added.
He said the trio survived because they were wearing life jackets when their boat capsized.
"This is an important reminder for the maritime community to observe safety measures such as wearing life jackets while going out to sea.
"It could help save lives if something happens," he said, adding that the operation ended at 8am.