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Emotional Reunion For Boy Plucked From Sea

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Emotional reunion for boy plucked from sea

Published on Dec 21 , 2005

Nong Tom, a 10-year-old tsunami survivor, was overcome with emotion yesterday when he was reunited with the navy pilot who plucked him from the sea a year ago.

Commander Tanate Teerachaitunyasak paid the boy a surprise visit and fulfilled the youngster's greatest wish.

He couldn't help but cry on seeing the face of the very first person he saw after the worst nightmare of his young life.

On December 26 last year, he managed to stay afloat on floating coconut tree for two days after he was swept away by the giant waves.

It took several minutes for the boy to calm himself enough to say the words he had waited to say for so many months - "thank you".

"I was glad to meet him today too," said Tanate, who works at the Royal Thai Navy's Naval Air Division. He was invited by the Mental Health Department to surprise Nong Tom, or Patiwat Khomkla, to mark the first anniversary of the tsunami disaster.

Nong Tom was bruised and frail when Tanate picked him out of the floating debris and corpses in the Andaman Sea near Pak Veep beach in Takua Pa district.

The commander was flying a helicopter to drop off a team of naval rescue forces when he was notified by another pilot of Nong Tom's situation. After delivering the team to the site, Tanate came back to search for the young survivor.

"He was very patient and very brave. When I first saw him all he could do was try to look up at me while managing not to lose grip of the log," Tanate recalled.

Tanate said he had also been wanting to meet Nong Tom again.

After he took the boy to a naval hospital in the province, days passed before he had the chance to visit him. By then, the boy had been moved to a new location.

When he was invited to the surprise reunion, the commander said he did not have to think twice.

On hearing about the boy's second wish, to become a naval pilot like his hero, Tanate took the name badge with its pilot's wing off his chest and gave it to the boy.

He told him to pursue his dream.

Arthit Khwankhom

The Nation

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