SA skipper describes harrowing experience with Somali pirates

2010-11-15 14:36

A South African skipper today described the harrowing experience he and other two South Africans endured in the hands of Somali pirates.

“It was a scary experience. They beat me and threatened us with guns. I refused to leave the yacht and I was prepared to sink with the pirates,” said Peter Eldridge.

The South African skipper was addressing the media for the first time since he was rescued off the Somali coast on November 7.

The Durban couple, Bruno Pelizzari and his girlfriend, Deborah Calitz, were not lucky as they were taken from the yacht SY Choizil by the armed pirates.

Their yacht was taken over by pirates – men aged between 15 and 50 – on October 26.

Eldridge resisted capture after they had spent days with the pirates.

“I refused to leave the yacht because I had made peace with myself. I refused because everything I had was in that yacht,” he said.

Explaining his ordeal, Eldridge said they were off the Kenyan coast when they were captured by heavily armed pirates.

“They demanded money. They took the money that Deborah and Pelizzari were carrying for their families. They demanded more and we told them that we did not have more because we were ordinary people,” he said.

He said the pirates had refused to believe them.

“They said we were from Britain because we were white. This was despite the fact that we showed them our passports,” he said.

He said he had been assaulted and a firearm had been discharged when he refused to leave the vessel. The yacht had run aground when the pirates forced them to leave it.

Eldridge said the experience he had in the hands of the pirates was so harrowing that knowing what day or time had become irrelevant.

The pirates were armed with AK47s, rockets and R4s.

He said they were on their way from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Richards Bay when they were attacked.

“The issue of the pirates was discussed before we began our journey, but we believed that they would only rob us and leave us to continue if they caught us,” he said.

He said the French war ship patrolling the area tried to help them before their yacht ran aground but was attacked by the pirates with rockets.

Eldridge was rescued by the French warship.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation yesterday said that the pirates had not yet communicated.

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