Fishing boat returns as probe into missing skipper, engineer continues

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Coast Guard yesterday escorted a Taiwanese fishing boat back into port at Yilan County’s Suao, along with its Indonesian crew who will face mutiny and double homicide investigations.

The Suao-registered Te Hung Hsing No. 368 (特宏興368號) was reported missing on July 18. Its last know location was around 527 nautical miles northwest of French Polynesia in the eastern Pacific. After a five-day high-sea chase in one of the Coast Guard’s farthest and longest rescue missions, a Coast Guard vessel dispatched on July 23 seized the fishing boat and apprehended nine crew members on early July 27 at around 623 nautical miles southwest of the Republic of Kiribati.

According to the Coast Guard’s preliminary investigation, a senior crew member hit the fishing boat’s Taiwanese skipper, Chen De-sheng (陳德生), in the head with a plastic float ball during an argument over work distribution on July 15. Chen went into a coma soon after the blow. Worried about exposure of the crime, the attacker and other crew members threw Chen’s body and then the boat’s Taiwanese chief engineer He Chang-lin (何昌琳) overboard, Coast Guard investigators said. At the scene of the boat’s return to Suao were family members of the two Taiwanese, some of whom collapsed at the sight of the vessel. A number of bereaved briefly breached a police cordon to attack the crew members with umbrellas and bare hands. The Indonesians were escorted by the Coast Guard and placed in the custody of the Yilan District Prosecutors Office. Prosecutors will investigate whether Chen and He were killed in a crime of passion or a premeditated murder. Chen’s eldest daughter demanded the government not deport the crewmen back to their home country and to sentence them to death for robbery and homicide. Other family members of Chen and He said they hope the Indonesian government will offer them an apology.

Benjamin Ho, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the ministry will do its best to respond to the families’ demands for an apology from Indonesia.