The last message of Vietnamese chief officer killed in Houthi missile strike

By Le Tan   March 9, 2024 | 03:22 am PT
The last message of Vietnamese chief officer killed in Houthi missile strike
Dang Duy Kien dies after following a missile strike on the True Confidence at the Gulf of Aden, launched by Houthi forces in Yemen. Photo provided by Kien's family
A day before the True Confidence crossed the Red Sea, Dang Duy Kien, chief officer of the cargo ship, texted his wife back home in Hai Phong that he was going through a warzone.

"I hope everything would be fine."

That was his last message home.

Kien did not answer his wife's text the next morning, and she was left anxious until late that night, only to learn from his company that he had killed in a missile strike by Houthi forces, at the Gulf of Aden.

On Friday, two days after bulk carrier True Confidence was hit by a missile strike from Houthi forces in Yemen, causing the death of Kien, 41, and two other crew members, his family in the northern Vietnamese port city received visitors non-stop, who came to give their condolences.

Le Mien, Kien's wife, said Kien had spent 13 years seafaring and was qualified as a captain. Due to his laborious job that required him to be away from home for long periods of time, four years ago he quit and began a career in real estate with Mien’s brother.

Late last year, when business did not go well, Kien came to work for the Hai Phong Marine Services and Trading Investment company, which recruits crew members for foreign vessels. Early this year, Kien took the job to go on the True Confidence to transport steel from China to Saudi Arabia.

When he went to China to receive the goods, Kien was told that the ship would travel across the Red Sea, where Houthi forces often perform missile strikes on international commercial ships going through the region.

Mien said the captain of the ship, an Indian, did not alter the course despite having been warned about the potential danger. On Feb. 13, when the vessel departed for the trip, Kien told Mien to get updated on the news daily so she could inform him about the warzone situation at the Red Sea.

Over the journey, Kien texted his wife and their two children, aged 6 and 10, every day. The last text message sent to Mien was at 11:50 p.m. on March 5.

"I’m about to cross a warzone. I hope everything would be fine," he texted.

"No matter what happens, you have to return home safely to us," Mien replied.

The next morning, Kien did not answer her text. Mien felt something was wrong, so she told her mother-in-law to prepare offerings and pray for Kien’s safety.

At 10 p.m. on March 6, Mien received a phone call from HP Marine. "They called and asked to come to my house for a talk. My intuition told me something had gone wrong, but I still hoped that the worst case scenario did not happen," Mien recalled.

At midnight, a representative from the company came and told the family what happened. Kien and two other crew members on the True Confidence had been killed in a missile strike by Houthi forces, at the Gulf of Aden at around 5:20 p.m. on March 6.

The vessel, which was Barbados-flagged and Liberian-owned, was over 90 km from the Aden port when the missile hit. There were 20 crew members on the ship: four Vietnamese, 15 Filipino and an Indian. There were also three armed guards on the vessel: two Sri Lankans and a Nepali.

"Kien was severely burned. He held on for an hour before dying. If there were enough medical supplies on the ship, or if an aircraft could have brought him to shore on time, he may have lived," a witness told Mien’s family.

It was the first fatal incident ever since Houthi began escalating attacks on international shipping on the Red Sea to force Israel to stop its campaigns on Hamas amid conflicts in the Middle East. Houthi forces confirmed the attack.

An Indian navy vessel later rescued the crew members of the True Confidence. The other Vietnamese crew members were safe and brought to the LeLaurier Hotel in Djibouti. Kien’s body was brought to the port city.

A close friend of Kien and Mien said Kien returned to see faring as he wanted to earn more money for his children’s education.

"Before he left, he promised his youngest child that no matter how far he went, he would always return home to take him to the first-grade school opening ceremony (this fall)," the friend said.

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