TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Two American women, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, embarked on a journey on a sailboat from Hawaii to Tahiti in May, but became stranded at sea after the boat was damaged by a storm. It was not until five months later that they met a Taiwanese fishing vessel which then contacted the U.S. Coast Guard to take them home.
However, the story took a dramatic turn on November 8 as the two women accused the Taiwanese fishermen of trying to kill them.
Andrew Lee (李憲章), spokesperson for Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied the allegation on Tuesday and said the accusation made by the two American women was "groundless" and "simply not true."
Lee told the media that the Taiwanese fishing vessel 'Feng-chun 66' (豐春66號) encountered two stranded American women on October 24 while operating on high seas off the Midway Atoll.
The Taiwanese fishermen tried to help them, allowing them to come aboard to use the satellite phone, and accompanying them until a U.S. Navy boat showed up the next day after being contacted, said Lee.
Lee said the Taipei Rescue Command Center (Taipei RCC), a national rescue unit, had been in contact with the U.S. authorities. In the meantime, the monitor center of the Fisheries Agency was keeping track of the Taiwanese fishing vessel.
The accusation made by the two American women was in contradiction to the information provided by Taipei RCC and the monitor center, added Lee.
In an interview with NBC on November 8, the two women said they were "never lost at sea" and that it wasn't until they were with the Taiwanese fishing vessel that they felt their lives were in danger.
"The Taiwanese fishing vessel was not planning to rescue us," Appel said, adding, "They tried to kill us during the night."
Appel said, "While the media portrayed a rescue with the Taiwanese fishing vessel, they were actually the reason why we called for help."
However, earlier reports said the two women had encountered a problem with the mast on their boat shortly after they set off. Days after, they were struck by a storm which flooded the engine and damaged the communications of the boat.
Reports said they started making distress calls afterwards but it was only after 99 days of distress calls that a Taiwanese fishing vessel finally found them.
When the two women were found, they were far off course. They were closer to Japan and more than 5,000 miles away from Tahiti, which is about 2,600 miles from where they originally departed, according to the NBC.