Castaways tell of terrifying ordeal

FIVE people, including a Co Kerry resident, who spent almost a week stranded at sea in a tiny inflatable life-raft yesterday described their terrifying ordeal after surviving storms and 30ft waves.

The four men and a woman also ran out of food and water after their trawler sank off the Isles of Scilly last Wednesday.

More than a week later they were airlifted to safety by a helicopter when the life-raft drifted into an area of mobile phone reception off Cornwall’s north coast yesterday morning.

The boat’s skipper, 56-year-old David Faulkner, from Surbiton, south-west London, described their experience being battered by high seas as like “going up in an elevator on a yo-yo”.

He said: “Your head ends up in your stomach, and your stomach ends up in your head.”

His son, 27-year-old Ian Faulkner said the seven days he spent adrift was “probably the most terrifying experience of my life”.

The five-strong crew left Kenmare Bay, Co Kerry, in their 60ft converted trawler named the Inis Mil on September 6.

The 56-year-old boat had just been bought by 25-year-old French air traffic controller Stephanie Preux who joined the passage to Cherbourg, France.

Jurgen Hensel, 44, a German farmer living near Kenmare who previously owned the vessel, and 19-year-old Australian gap year student Bjorn Bjorseth were among the crew.

In the early hours of September 8, the boat began taking on water. When all the pumps failed, the five started trying to bail the water by hand.

A phone call from Jurgen Hensel saying he was safe and well brought a huge sense of relief to his family, near Templenoe, Co Kerry, yesterday. The family declined requests for interviews and Jurgen’s brother asked for time to recover from their distress.

“We’re just delighted that it’s all over and we’re expecting him home in a day or two,” he said.

Crewmates relived their incredible survival at a press conference at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, where they are being treated for hypothermia.

Although clearly shaken, they were able to joke about the two bottles of urine that were the only liquid left on the life-raft when they were plucked from the sea.

And they said the mobile phone they used to summon help had only one bar of battery power left when they found a signal.

During their ordeal a fishing boat passed within 400m of their trawler but it either ignored or did not see their distress flares.

Eventually, after all their mayday calls went unanswered, they abandoned the boat 55 miles north-west of the Scillies at 5.30pm last Wednesday.

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