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September 26, 2017

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Family anxious for details of fishing boat captain's disappearance

TAIPEI -- The family of the skipper of a Taiwanese fishing boat who was reported missing after allegedly falling overboard in waters north of Indonesia were anxious Wednesday to find out what had happened on the vessel, which is crewed by 12 Indonesians.

Chen Chih-wen, who skippered the Kuo Jung No. 333, registered in Donggang, Pingtung County, was confirmed missing by Indonesian Navy officers earlier in the day, according to Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

Upon being informed of the news, Chen's sister Chen Yi-fei asked how it was possible for her brother, who she said had skippered fishing boats for many years, to fall overboard. "It is not possible for him to fall overboard by himself," she said.

"We want to know what happened" on the boat, Chen Yi-fei said during a telephone interview with CNA.

Lin Chin-hsi, owner of the Kuo Jung No. 333, declined to comment on the incident before knowing what happened. He said he was trying to acquire more information from the Indonesian authorities.

The ship set off from Palau June 12, heading for fishing grounds near the Solomon Islands. It was the first time the 12 Indonesian crewmen had worked for Chen, according to Lin.

He said he tried to contact Chen June 19 and a satellite phone call was put through, but no one answered. After tracking the boat's position, he found the vessel was sailing along the coast off northern Indonesia, he added.

He then asked the MOFA for assistance, which in turn asked Indonesia to dispatch military ships to intercept the Kuo Jung No. 333.

In a preliminary investigation, the 12 Indonesian crew members claimed that the skipper went missing after falling overboard when they were operating in rough seas close to the Solomon Islands.

The timeline of the incident was between June 19-20, according to the crew, Indonesian officials said.

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