“It was God and my Chinese training which saved me”. These were the first words of Navy Lieutenant John Daniel Bangura in answer to my look of disbelief and awe.
The Officer commanding the naval unit at Sulima had been given up for dead when the boat they were patrolling in was over turned by heavy waves.
It was like any other day and the patrol team set out to do their routine job of patrolling the coastline. They had to pass through a turbulent area where the salt water from the Atlantic ocean meets with the fresh water running down the Moa River. The mainly fishing residents have named it ‘Bad Mouth’.
And the team set out to pass through ‘bad mouth’ bracing themselves for the turbulent ride on the aggressive waves. They were hit first by one big wave and then three more showed up on the horizon, rolling down in their vengeance. According to Navy Lieutenant Bangura he decided as the Commanding officer to jump out of the boat with the intention of swimming to shore so that he can get help to come back and save his men. The other four were instructed to hold on to the boat.
“I was wearing a life jacket and I also held on to a floating board, but seeing the wave I removed the life jacket because I had to dive under the wave (and the jacket would have prevented me from doing so) otherwise the wave would have turned me over and dragged me to the beach where it would forcefully smash me on the ground killing me.”
“Unfortunately for me I could not hold on too long under the water and as I surfaced the other wave came upon me. I was then drifted from the direction I wanted to go and dragged further into the sea.”
After what seemed an eternity Lieutenant John Bangura said “The land was now far away and the salt from the sea was now disturbing my eyes. My limbs were tired and my eyes have closed. I had to dive under and straighten my limbs to ease the tiredness. I make a few strokes and then ease up as I had been trained to do when I went to China.”
Eventually he said “I drifted to land close to Bonthe at a village called ‘Lundula’. I was not seeing clearly and as I hit the beach I lay there to regain my strength. Even there the water was splashing on me. Lying on the beach I heard the helicopter which the CDS had chartered to go and look for us but I was so tired and my eyes were partially closed from the salt in the water. After a little rest I then struggled in to the village. When the people saw me they thought I was a ghost. They mixed ‘gari’ for me and I ate it, then they took me on a boat again to cross over to another village ‘Layah’. From here now I was taken to the base where again people thought I had died. I spent a total of 10 hours and 55 minutes in the water. Were it not for God and my training in China I would be a corpse now.”
With a huge sigh of relief Lt. Bangura said “Thank God for the CDS we have – he showed real concern and we appreciate him … even the people in the village were happy that he himself went on the ground.”