Key parts of women’s tale of survival at sea contradicted

HONOLULU (AP) — Two Hawaii women who say they were lost at sea for five months never activated their emergency beacon and described running into a fearsome storm that meteorologists say didn’t exist, adding to a growing list of inconsistencies that cast doubt on their harrowing tale of survival.

The women previously told The Associated Press that they had radios, satellite phones, GPS and other emergency gear, but they didn’t mention an emergency position indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB. A Coast Guard review and subsequent interviews with Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava revealed that they had the device aboard their sailboat but never turned it on.

“We asked why during this course of time did they not activate the EPIRB. She had stated they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.

Appel said Tuesday that in her experience, the beacon should be used only when facing imminent physical danger and death in the next 24 hours.

“Our hull was solid, we were floating, we had food, we had water, and we had limited maneuverable capacity,” Appel said in Japan, where the U.S. Navy took them after their rescue last week. “All those things did not say we are going to die. All that said, it’s going to take us a whole lot longer to get where we’re going.”

In retrospect, Appel said there were two times she would have used it — near Hawaii in late June to early July and off Wake Island on Oct. 1.

“That’s a lesson learned for me, because that was the best chance we had in the ocean to get help,” she said.

The emergency beacon communicates with satellites and sends locations to authorities within minutes. It’s activated when it’s submerged in water or turned on manually.