Chinese fisherman killed off Palau, 3 missing

Apr 4, 2012, 12:36 AM

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) – A Chinese fisherman was killed after Republic of Palau police officers fired at his boat, believed to fishing illegally off the Pacific island nation.

A Cessna carrying an American pilot and two Palau police officers that was dispatched to track a larger Chinese boat that was part of the operation has gone missing.

But the U.S. Coast Guard has been searching for the three since the pilot reported Sunday that they were running low on fuel and having navigational problems.

The plane was believed to have gone down near the republic’s southernmost island of Peleliu, said Lt. j.g. Richard Russell, enforcement officer for Sector Guam. But since the plane’s navigational equipment was failing, the pilot wasn’t able to give an accurate report.

“Right now we’re hoping we can find some kind of debris or clue about where this plane may have gone down,” Russell said. “We’re really digging into this as deeply as we can.”

Rescuers have been poring over transcripts of the pilot’s conversation with the airport and over weather reports to try and match his description of the cloud cover.

Palau is in the mid-Pacific Ocean, some 500 miles east of the Philippines.

Palau President Johnson Toribiong on his Facebook page identified the missing pilot as Frank Ohlinger and the officers as Earl Decherong and Willy Mays Towai.

“I ask for your prayers for the captain and these two fine young police officers,” he wrote.

Joining in the search that has spanned more than 6,500 square nautical miles, is a mega-yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who visited Guam about a week ago.

“The captain of `Octopus’ has been in constant contact with Coast Guard officials through days of searching,” said David Postman, spokesman for Allen’s investment company, Vulcan.

Officers fired at the engines of the fishing vessel because it allegedly tried to ram the Palau boat, Fermin Meriang told Pacific Daily News (

“No one aimed directly at the man, so one of the bullets must have ricocheted off the engine and struck him in the thigh,” he said, adding the fisherman bled to death before he could be taken to a hospital.

According to court documents, five fishermen have been charged with illegal fishing and other charges. Another 20 Chinese fishermen were rounded up after a “mother ship” was later found, Meriang said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Chinese fisherman killed off Palau, 3 missing