Five divers rescued from remote beach after two days adrift

Three Britons and their companions, found alive by Indonesian fisherman, suffer just cuts and dehydration
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The Independent Online

Three British divers feared dead after they disappeared for two days in Indonesian waters were receiving medical attention last night after they were found alive on a remote beach.

Britons James Manning, Kathleen Mitchinson and Charlotte Allin, together with a French and Swedish diver, were yesterday found stranded on an island more than 20 miles from where they went missing.

Initial reports said the five had been swept away by strong currents from a dive site in Indonesia's Komodo National Park. French diver Laurent Pinel, 31, said: "We had nothing to eat. We ate some kind of mussels scraped from the rocks." He said the group had tried to struggle against the current for several hours but stopped to conserve energy.

Police said the divers had roped themselves together and clung to a log for more than 12 hours while adrift at sea before sighting land and swimming ashore on the island of Rinca, an estimated 20 miles south of the dive site.

The five were spotted by fishermen who rescued them before taking them to the nearby island of Flores where they received medical treatment for dehydration and exhaustion before leaving.

Relatives of the divers expressed their joy at hearing the news. David Allin, father of Charlotte, said his daughter had called to say she was dehydrated and exhausted but had only suffered minor cuts and bruises. "It is fantastic news. It has been a very long night as we sat around waiting for news. It is pretty emotional, as you can imagine. We just want to get them home now."

Mr Allin said Charlotte and her boyfriend, James Manning, 30, were diving instructors who had been teaching scuba diving in Phi Phi, Thailand, for about two years. Speaking from the family home at Northam, near Bideford, north Devon, he said: "I gather that they have managed to walk under their own steam which is a good sign, but I don't know any more than that. She didn't really understand what all the fuss was about," he said.

Mr Manning's brother, Oly, spoke of his relief at the news his brother was alive. Speaking from his home in Willand, near Cullompton, Devon, he said he found out his brother was alive following a call from the Foreign Office yesterday morning. "I've spoken to him and he's absolutely exhausted – they all are. He's OK though – covered in cuts and bruises and very dehydrated. It's been such a massive shock for every one involved. He was on the way to a hospital when I spoke to him. He just wanted to let us know he was OK and that he was being cared for.

"It was touch and go. It could so easily have worked out badly."

Ernest Leandowski, husband of Kathleen Mitchinson who was leading the dive, said: "They have been found, they are alive."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "By all accounts all five have been found by Indonesian fishermen."

The diving expedition was organised by the Reefseekers diving centre, which is run by Mrs Mitchinson and based in Labuhan Bajo, a small fishing town on the Indonesian island of Flores. The waters off the isolated park are attractive to divers, but the area is prone to strong and unpredictable currents which can create challenging conditions.

Police said that powerful currents had swept them away as they waited for their dive boat. Local police chief Lt Col Buce Helo said the divers had drifted for more than 12 hours before reaching the remote Rinca island. He said they spent one night on Rinca before being found by rescuers just before noon local time on Saturday.

The diving trip took place off Tatawa island, near Komodo National Park, which is home to the world's largest lizards, the Komodo dragons. The area, where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet, is recommended only for experienced divers due to strong currents and whirlpools which can pull divers down.