Headless body of Chinese ocean rower found

A decapitated cadaver of a man was recently recovered in a remote island of Tawi-Tawi.

The body found on the coastline of Kinapusan Island, Tawi-Tawi, Philippines, near a wrecked boat has now been identified as the remains of Ruihan Yu of China, who set out to solo row the Pacific Ocean.

This had been Yu’s second attempt at a solo Pacific crossing. In 2017, he was rowing from California to Australia, but he had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) off the coat of Hawaii after a damaged rudder. He set off again in 2019 to attempt his Pacific crossing but capsized on November 27. His last known position was 755km north of Majuro Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, within Hawaiian waters, according to Explorersweb.

After capsizing, Yu’s boat did not self-right and he called for rescue. He told the Hawaiian USCG that he had lost all survival gear, including a life vest, and he was clinging to the hull of his vessel.

The Coast Guard carried out a three-day aerial search for Yu. On the first day, seven hours after his rescue call, he was sighted clutching the hull of his boat, but by now, the plane was low on fuel. Before they turned around, they dropped a life raft in the hope that he would be able to reach it.

He did not. When the plane returned after refuelling, the crew spotted the life raft but not Yu or his boat. They continued searching but were unable to spot Yu again. After reaching the 120 hours of expected survivability in the 84°F water, the search was called off.

Fellow rower and friend Lia Ditton believed that Yu would have swum back inside his overturned boat. He had already survived one night inside the hull, and in one famous shipwreck, solo sailor Tony Bullimore had successfully sheltered four days inside his overturned hull in the Southern Ocean. Ditton thought she would have done the same in a similar situation. When Yu had called for rescue, he had said that he had drilled holes in the hull to increase his intake of air.

His body was found alongside the 24-foot rowing boat on April 24. Its red, white, and blue stripes and number 88 on the hull identified it as Yu’s boat. The wetsuit-clad body was missing the head and feet. When Ditton was sent the images, she recognised both the boat and the wetsuit as Ruihan Yu’s, according to Explorersweb.

Meanwhile, the Manila Times reports regional military commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the head of the man was severed by strong waves as the body drifted in the high seas for a long time. Sobejana clarified that the corpse was not a case of beheading.

Maj. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the Western Miindanao Command said, based on initial assessment, the male cadaver and the ocean rowboat drifted with the sea current from the Celebes Sea toward the seawater of South Ubian.

The cadaver, being in an advanced state of decomposition, was immediately buried in the area by the members of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team while the rowboat was brought to the South Ubian Municipal Hall in Barangay Bengkolon.

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