My life vest saved me, says Penang fisherman


BALIK PULAU: A fisherman whose boat capsized near here has described his ordeal as being “brought back from the brink of death”.

That was what former assistant chief photographer of Star Media Group Bhd, Wan Mohizan Wan Hussein, said after being rescued by friends about two nautical miles off Pulau Kendi, a rocky isle 4km southwest of Penang island.

Wan Mohizan, 54, who has 30 years’ experience fishing at sea, chose to be a full-time fisherman after his early retirement from The Star in 2017.

No matter how hot the day was, he unfailingly kept his life vest on while at sea, and that was what saved him when his boat capsized on Tuesday.

Recalling his experience, Wan Mohizan said it happened at about 2.30pm, after a tidal swell caused his boat, which was anchored at that point, to keel over.

“The sea current was not that strong. This can happen to any fishermen,” he said when met at his house in Taman Pondok Upeh yesterday.

He launched his vessel at 6.45am on Tuesday, and went to his usual fishing spot, above a sunken WWII ship roughly seven nautical miles (13km) southwest of Penang island.

Wan Mohizan recalled the weather was good, with no strong winds to whip up the waves.

He was preparing to call it a day when the tidal swell broadsided his boat and flipped it.

“I never, ever, take off my life jacket while at sea. That was what saved me,” he said.

Being able to tread water easily with his vest on, Wan Mohizan calmly took stock of his predicament and thanked his lucky stars when he saw that his overturned boat had stayed afloat.

He clambered onto the hull, before jumping back to the sea to retrieve his dry bag and other items, including snacks, a torchlight, and drinking water bottle, that were still afloat.

He then performed his evening prayers on the boat and waited for help as the sky grew dark around him.

A few fishing boats passed by in the darkness, but none responded to his shouts for help.

At 4.30am yesterday, a boat came close enough, and Wan Mohizan used his torchlight to indicate he was in distress.

“The fishermen tried to tow my boat, but it was too heavy, so they decided to bring me back to shore first,” he said, adding that he intends to continue fishing after this ordeal. Wan Mohizan will go to sea again as soon as he can retrieve his boat, and considers capsizing part and parcel of life at sea, though he insists that seafarers should always keep their life vests on.

Jorsmani Budin, 37, thanked God that her husband returned unharmed.

“If he goes out to sea and is late, I will call him. But when I called this time, he didn’t pick up,” she said, adding that she lodged a police report at 8pm on Tuesday after being advised by the Sungai Burung fishermen’s unit.

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