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Refugee reunited with her 'hero' 40 years after he saved her life

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Refugee reunited with her 'hero' 40 years after he saved her life thumbnail

A DUNGANNON man has been reunited with a woman whose life he saved nearly 40 years ago.
Healey Martin, who was Captain of the 'Sibonga' ship, carried out a compassionate rescue of 1,003 Vietnamese refugees in 1979.
One refugee that was saved was 15-year-old Ann Bates, who, at the weekend, travelled over to meet her 'hero' after he saved her life all those years ago.
Ann, who now lives outside London with her husband and family, had remained in correspondence with Healey over the years and made the decision to come and meet with him here in Dungannon at Nightingale Residential home, where he is now a resident.
The rescue took place when a member of the crew had seen a boatload of around 600 refugees emitting distress signals and waving to attract his attention. He alerted Captain Martin about the situation. The decision was then made by the Captain to carry out the difficult task of helping the refugees onto his ship. He said: "We decided to take them onboard to help them. They were in very cramped poor conditions."
However only a few hours later, the ship was faced with even more refugees that they also helped aboard, meaning the number of people that had been saved mounted to over 1,000.
Captain Martin's ship was on a circular route around the North Pacific and on a run between South East Asia and the west coast of Canada and North America visiting Manila, Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong when the rescue took place.
After arriving at Hong Kong, the ship was unable to let the refugees dismount, but could not continue its voyage as it is illegal for ships to sail without enough lifeboats for all of the passengers.
After two weeks being anchored at sea, Healey got word that his employers Bank Line had organised to send aeroplanes to transport the refugees back to the UK.
Both Healey and Ann enjoyed catching up on Saturday after all these years, and will continue to stay in touch.

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