HOF073: Pham Thi Duyen

Pham Thi Duyen, a teacher in her late 20s from Saigon, managed to travel in a boat out of Vietnam with 143 strangers. She considered the immense odds against which she was able to survive, nothing short of a miracle. She was on a horrific seven day trip at sea during which she experienced many deadly incidents. She hopelessly watched a young girl next to her slowly die of thirst. She also saw Thai pirates abduct 5 young women during the journey.

She barely escaped being abducted when the ship’s helmsman gave her black engine oil to smear on her face and a mother  passed her toddler to her just in time. Finally, her boat encountered a British-flagged oil tanker. The captain was firmly determined to send the refugees on their way with some supplies and navigational aid. In ultimate desperation, Duyen’s  tearful good-bye caused the captain’s change of heart. His decision came miraculously in time. A powerful storm arrived moments after the refugees safely boarded the tanker, where they watched in horror as the waves picked up and swallowed their boat.