Koror- A Chinese free diver on a holiday in Palau has been reported missing since Monday after he failed to surface from a spearfishing trip in the outer reef area of western Babeldaob.
A search and rescue incident report by the Division of Marine Law and Enforcement identified the missing foreigner as 34- year old Chen Chao.
He was reported to be free diving with another tourist outside the reef of Ngatpang and Ngaremlengui states. Chao is an award-winning free diver in Asia and a frequent visitor of Palau.
After failing to see Chao descent to the surface, his dive buddy went to authorities to report the incident, after which a patrol boat was then deployed by the DMLE to the area at about 3:30 pm to conduct a search and rescue operation.
Other state boats and private boats joined in the search on Monday and by Thursday morning, a locally owned small aircraft assisted in the operation.
The assistance of the United States Coast Guard has also been sought by the Ministry of Justice in the search and rescue.
The team also included scuba divers who helped scour 1,400 square meters around the area where Chao was last seen.
On the day of the incident, a small craft advisory was released warning all sea-bound boaters to take precautionary measures due to rough water conditions traveling to Kayangel, Angaur, Peleliu and outside the reef.
Chao’s companions said the tour boat operator did not notify them of the water conditions.
The incident report said Chao’s group chartered a boat from Landmark Marina. Chao was last seen diving in in an area with healthy marine life and wildlife including sharks. The area was also known for its strong currents.
The rescue team also told local media that they have recovered the speargun and a weight belt from the area where Chao was believed to be spearfishing.
Friends of Chao have turned to social media to seek assistance in finding the missing diver.
One post offered a reward to any individuals who can locate Chao. The tourist’s friends have already notified Chao’s parents and the Chinese embassy in Pohnpei about the incident.
The DMLE said it will stop its search and rescue efforts this Friday.