FSM MOURNS PALAUAN ATHLETES' TRAGIC DEATHS IN POHNPEI

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PALIKIR, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (August 7, 2002 - FSM Information Services)---The flag of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Pohnpei State flag have been ordered to fly at half-mast following the tragic death of three members of Palau’s athletic team on August 4, 2002.

The victims -- Claudia Ngirasob, Dawn Bachungor Rechemang and Rita Gracia Sungino -- were among the 20 some Palauan athletes and trainers on an afternoon excursion to Liduduhniap Waterfalls (Twin Falls) in Nett Municipality, to continue their celebration of victory as the winners of the most medals in the recently completed 5th Micronesian Games.

At around 3 p.m. in the afternoon, the euphoria was interrupted by a sudden downpour of heavy rain followed almost simultaneously by a flash flood, feared and known by the locals as "Luwair," meaning the sneaky one.

The violent rush of water hit the group at the top of the first fall and dropped six people into the swirling pool of the second fall. The group at the bottom had time to scramble to safety and with the assistance of the fast reacting residents, who had earlier forewarned the athletes of a flashflood, managed to rescue three out of the pool, but the other three were swept away.

The families along the river mobilized a search and rescue team, later joined by the State Department of Public Safety, to recover two of the victims down river that evening. The other body was recovered near the falls the next morning, Monday, August 5.

On Monday afternoon, officials from Palau arrived to accompany the remains back to Palau.

Palau officials have indicated that a state funeral has been scheduled for Friday to bury the three victims of the tragic Twin Falls incident.

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