Vietnamese refugees reunite with sailor who rescued them from lost fishing boat 44 years ago

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After years of searching, a second sailor who rescued 51 Vietnamese refugees in 1978 found a group of them 44 years later.

One of the refugees, Lisa Dam, was 19 when she escaped Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. While on a fishing boat with 50 other people, including 33 adults and 18 children, the group got lost in the South China Sea.

Dam said several ships passed and failed to rescue the group. A second-in-command sailor on a container ship, however, saw the lost fishing boat and convinced its captain to get the 51 refugees on board to safety.

“I’m the captain’s right-hand man. He said to me, “Get on the boat, tell them they can have all the food and all the water, but we really can’t take them,” said Georg Pedersen, now 88. year. BNC News‘Vicky Nguyen. “If someone needs help, you give them help.”

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Pedersen spent several years trying to find the group and finally had a breakthrough when his neighbor tracked down one of the refugees, Nguyen Minh, on a list of names the 88-year-old kept of the 51 people. Minh was the first to reunite with Pedersen in 2018.

Dam thanked Pedersen by shaking his hand during their reunion and credited him with saving the groups lives.

“You did it. Without you, we wouldn’t have been here,” Dam told Pedersen.

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Two other refugees, Truong Anh, who is now a lawyer in Los Angeles, and his brother Van, were 4 and 9 when they escaped with the group in 1978. Truong recounted the time the ship’s crew brought with the other refugees on the container ship.

“I remember seeing huge, blue-eyed, big-muscled men for the first time, literally carrying us from the little boat,” Truong told Nguyen. Van said being rescued “changed everything for us”.

The group toasted Pedersen during their reunion and expressed their gratitude for the 88-year-old.

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“You were the right person, in the right place at the right time,” Truong told Pederson during their celebratory toast.

Pedersen now hopes to find and reunite with the remaining 23 refugees.

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Characteristic image via BNC News

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