Photo/IllutrationChildren float by clutching a plastic bottle tight to their chests in a pool in Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

MUNAKATA, Fukuoka Prefecture--Plastic bottles may be getting a bad rap for harming the environment, but one here recently helped save the life of a drowning young girl off a remote island in Fukuoka Prefecture.

On the afternoon of Aug. 31, Mikoto Fujishima, 14, was chatting with her school friends, Neiro Kusano, 12, and Haruka Honda, 12, in Oshima island of the city of Munakata, according to the Munakata Fire Department.

The girls attend the municipal Oshima Gakuen Junior High School. Mikoto is a second-year student, and Neiro and Haruka are first-year students.

After saying goodbye to their friend who left on a ferry from the island, the trio were walking back the 50 meters inland on an embankment and started talking.

At around 4:25 p.m., they heard a male voice yelling, “Help!” They raced back to the tip of the seawall and saw that a little girl, whom they had seen fishing with her father and brother a short while before, had fallen into the sea.

Mikoto instantly remembered what her fisherman father had once told her: You can use the buoyancy of a plastic bottle as a life preserver.

She told Neiro to run back to where they were chatting to retrieve the unfinished 2-liter plastic bottle that they had been drinking from.

She also assigned Haruka to calm the girl’s father and his son, who were understandably panicking.

Upon Neiro’s return with the plastic bottle, Mikoto grabbed it, took off her shoes and jumped into the sea with her clothes on.

Mikoto reached the girl and had her hold the plastic bottle tight as she floated. Supporting the girl’s shoulders, Mikoto led her to steps that led to the seawall to complete the rescue mission. The child’s life was saved.

The trio coordinated the rescue perfectly, as Neiro notified staff at the ferry terminal that a girl had fallen into the sea and asked them to call an ambulance.

Haruka kept cheering on and encouraging Mikoto and the little girl until they safely made it back to the bottom of the steps.

In honor of their courage, quick thinking and response, the city government and the fire department headquarters in the Munakata district on Oct. 7 presented a letter of appreciation to the trio.

“My father had told me about the plastic bottle, so I just carried out what I remembered,” Mikoto said.

Her father congratulated Mikoto, telling his daughter it was a “job well done,” she said.