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Replica ship's crew deems sail success


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hawaii crew members who survived the ocean collision between a freighter and the Chinese sailboat TaiPing say the boat accomplished its goal despite the disaster.

The 53-foot replica of a Ming Dynasty wooden sailboat was broken in two when it was rammed by a freighter in the dark morning hours of April 26, about 40 miles from Taiwan.

;[Preview]    Hawaii Crew Members Home After Taipei Ordeal
  ;[Preview]
 

Hawaii crew members were aboard a replica of an ancient ship when it ran into trouble out at sea.

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Members of the Hawaii contingent said at a news conference on Oahu yesterday that they are waiting for the results of an investigation by the Taiwanese Coast Guard.

Larz Stewart of Kaimuki said Taiwanese officials are gathering radar and radio information as part of the investigation.

He said when he saw the freighter headed toward them, he thought he was going to die.

“;We'd like to have some form of justice,”; he said.

“;We don't want this to happen to other people.”;

At the same time, crew members said they felt the TaiPing did what it set out to do: prove Chinese explorers were capable of making trans-Pacific crossings, adding credence to historic accounts of long-distance voyages.

The TaiPing, launched in January 2008 after six years of research and development, sailed from Taiwan to Okinawa and Japan, then crossed 5,100 miles of ocean to Northern California, traveling to San Diego before coming to Hawaii. The vessel arrived in Hawaii on Dec. 22 and left Honolulu for Taiwan on Feb. 16.

Supporters of the TaiPing on Taiwan are organizing to build a similar vessel, said Kanya Rangsimongkol, vice president of the Chinese Women's Benevolent Association of Hawaii.

After the TaiPing was cut in two, crew members said they clung to the wreckage for several hours not knowing whether help was on its way.

Crew member Thomas William Cook, a former resident of Humboldt, Calif., suffered severe neck injuries and remained in a hospital in Taiwan.

The remaining 10 have been released from the hospital.

Hawaii crew member John Hunter said he swam to aid Cook, who floated toward them in the darkness.

“;He said his wrist was broken and thought his neck was broken, too,”; Hunter said.

Hunter said he held onto Cook and the wreckage for a couple of hours until he was exhausted, then others helped to support Cook.

Stewart said he saw floating nearby a device capable of emitting an emergency distress signal and the location of the wreck to satellites.

Hawaii crew member Jack Durham borrowed the emergency position-indicating radio beacon and brought it aboard the TaiPing in Honolulu in the event of an emergency.

Stewart said he flipped the switch on the EPIRB and hoped someone would notice the distress signal.

The Coast Guard in Honolulu received the distress signal and notified the Taiwanese Coast Guard, Stewart said.