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Brother: Boys went out in search of love, ended up at sea for 50 days

From Andreena Narayan, CNN
The three teen boys were famished and dehydrated when rescuers found them after nearly two months at sea.
The three teen boys were famished and dehydrated when rescuers found them after nearly two months at sea.
  • Iele Filo said that his brother and two boys met two girls at a rugby tournament
  • After a night of revelry, the boys got in a boat to meet two girls an island away
  • The teens spent 50 days at sea, living off coconuts and a seabird, before their rescue
  • The boys were brought to Fiji, where they're now "well" and under a doctor's care

(CNN) -- Three teenage boys from a remote South Pacific island went out to sea in search of love, only to end up lost and drifting 750 miles west until their rescue 50 days later, one of the boys' brothers told CNN Saturday.

Iele Filo said that the three boys, including his 15-year-old brother Filo, met two girls while helping host a rugby tournament on October 5 on Atafu in the Tokelau Islands, about midway between New Zealand and Hawaii.

After the event, the girls went home to Nukonou, the central island in the three-island chain.

Filo and Samu Pelesa, also 15, spent the night drinking heavily, before deciding to set off after the girls, Iele Filo, 16, said.

Those two were "drunk," according to Iele, and a sober Etueni Nasau, 14, decided to join them in their romantic adventure.

"They said they were going to go -- I thought they were kidding," Iele Filo said. "I didn't think they were really going to do it."

Teens rescued at sea
  • Fiji
  • New Zealand
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Samoa

The three boys, who are cousins, left just after midnight to "chase after the girls," Iele Filo said. But they never reached their destination, and their 12-foot metal boat eventually lost power.

On Wednesday, a crew member of a New Zealand tuna fishing ship spotted the small boat from two miles away, in a far-flung stretch of sea between western Samoa and Fiji. The boys were famished, dehydrated, exhausted, naked and sunburned, but soon impressed their rescuers with their vivacious spirit and minds.

"They looked very bad -- bones protruding from underneath the skin -- but mentally strong, strong as an ox," Tai Fredricsen, the first mate of the Sanford fishing boat that ended up taking on the boys, told CNN on Thursday.

After eating and drinking on the boat, the boys were released to the Fiji coast guard around 4:30 a.m. Thursday. They were then admitted to Suva Public Hospital and, the next day, released to a physician identified as Dr. Rosemary Mitchell, a Suva police spokeswoman said.

Fredricsen said on Saturday that he had not spoken recently with the boys, but had gotten assurances that they "are doing well."

"I hope that our paths cross again," he told CNN while still at sea as he was and heading back to New Zealand.

Still, it would be near impossible to replicate the circumstances under which they first met, about 240 miles northwest of Fiji.

The boys told Fredricsen that they had left their island with enough coconuts to keep them hydrated for two days. They used a tarpaulin to catch rainwater and for shelter after their clothes disintegrated.

Just over two weeks ago -- about the same time that hundreds of people in the Tokelau Islands attended a service to mourn them, after they were declared dead -- the three caught and ate a seabird, according to Fredricsen.

The boys admitted drinking sea water two days before their rescue, something that could have shut down their kidneys had it continued.

After being brought onboard, Fredricsen said he moved the boys to his cabin's king-sized bed, where "they all fit comfortably," and began administering first aid to their burned skin.

He began giving them small amounts of electrolyte-spiked liquids, and within a half-hour they could swallow again. Within a few hours, they were able to eat bits of dry white bread, then oranges and apples, until they eventually requested French fries from McDonald's. Throughout the experience, the first mate said, the teens were smiling.

"The cooperation was just incredible from the start," Fredricsen said. "It was just an uplifting experience to meet these young men. They didn't give up."

Back in the Tokelau Islands, grief turned to elation when word spread that the boys were alive. Tanu Filo, the father of Filo and Iele, invited Fredricsen's crew to a traditional feast on the Tokelaus to celebrate the rescue.

"I was on cloud nine, I was so joyful," Tanu Filo told CNN on Thursday, after hearing the news. "I couldn't believe my son and his boys were found again. Unbelievable."