Two men on boat adrift for two months die within hours of being rescued

Two men who survived two months drifting helplessly in a small boat through shark-infested seas tragically died within hours of being picked up by a rescue vessel, it emerged yesterday.

The pair were among a group of eight men who had set out in a 22ft wooden boat from a small island off Papua New Guinea, north of Australia, to sail to another island 30 miles away - but they ran out of fuel and their terrible ordeal began.

As the days turned into weeks, lack of food and water left them in such a weakened state that one of the group - a 17-year-old boy - was washed overboard. He was unable to hang on during a storm which hit the small craft and he was lost just two days before his companions were found.

Stranded: The men set off from Papua New Guinea for another island 30 miles away - but ran out of fuel

Stranded: The men set off from Papua New Guinea for another island 30 miles away - but ran out of fuel

The remaining seven were close to death when a fishing boat found them more than 1,000 miles from their intended destination.

The rescue boat - the U.S.-based fishing vessel Ocean Encounter - headed at full speed to the nearest island nation, the Marshall Islands, situated 2,500 miles north east of Australia. But two of those who were picked up died from dehydration and starvation on the journey.

They had all endured baking heat by night and the fear of the unknown through the long dark nights, growing weaker as the days passed.

Despite their weak conditions, the survivors were able to tell something of their story to the captain of the rescue ship, Ben Maughan.

The men said they had set out to sail just 30 miles, but they ran out of fuel during what was expected to be a six-hour trip and began to drift further into the Pacific.

Without any means of communication, they could only hope that the crew of a passing vessel would see them and pick them up. But several ships ignored their gestures and cries for help, they said. 

Speaking from the Marshall Islands after the rescued men had been brought ashore, Captain Maughan described how they had managed to survive for two months at sea.

'They managed to catch fish, which they ate raw, but there was nothing else,' he said.

'They had absolutely nothing. This was just a small launch, maybe 22ft long by 6ft wide, and they had nothing but an orange tarp covering them.

'They were so weak we could only spoon-feed them small amounts of food.

'I had the ship's cook spoon-feed them just small amounts of water because of their condition.

'We made up a kind of a rice pudding, something soft that their systems would accept.'

The five survivors are now in a hospital in the Marshall Islands' capital, Majuro, where they are being re-hydrated.

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