A Fountain Valley yacht crewman missing in strife-torn South Yemen telephoned his father early Saturday to say that he had sailed safely into the Middle East port of Djibouti after huddling in a cellar for three days to escape fierce fighting.
Robert G. McSeveney Jr., 29, and a shipmate limped out of the port of Aden, the capital of South Yemen, in a heavily damaged yacht under a hail of fire from MIG fighter jets, his father said Saturday.
An attempted coup Monday plunged the small Marxist country into turmoil, with leftist rebels fighting government forces in tank and infantry battles outside Aden and other areas.
McSeveney was helping to deliver the 44-foot yacht from Thailand to Cyprus when the yacht stopped last weekend in Aden, according to his father, Robert G. McSeveney Sr.
"We're tremendously relieved," the elder McSeveney said after the 1 a.m. call Saturday from his son.
"He told us he'd gotten trapped with his shipmate in Aden when the hostilities broke out in the town itself," the elder McSeveney said from his Fountain Valley home. "I guess they were without food or water. . . .
"They returned to the ship after three days and decided to make a run for it. But they found the skipper gone and the boat damaged. They had an auxiliary engine, so he said they fired it up and made a run for it."
"He said the MIG jets were coming in low, dropping bombs and firing rockets. He said it was like being in a war movie," said McSeveney, a retired Los Angeles police homicide detective.
An American yachtsman, whose name was not released but was believed to be McSeveney, was interviewed by a CBS news crew when he arrived in the country of Djibouti, which lies on the northeast tip of Africa across the Gulf of Aden from South Yemen.
"We'd been under siege for 26 hours, hiding in this concrete room with about 30 other men there, all huddled down," he said.
He said everyone hid their heads under their arms as artillery burst around them.
He said he and his companion, a Canadian he was sailing with, made their move to escape when a man came in and "indicated it was OK" to leave.
"There was confusion, women crying with their children in the streets," he said.
"It was a scene out of the 11 o'clock news. There we were running with these civilians in the street."
"We got to the ocean, got where we were going to swim back to the boat and there was nothing but a black oil slick.
'No Time to Think'
"No time to think. Guns were going off. Boom, in we went."
The elder McSeveney said his son, a professional scuba diving teacher, had been traveling in Asia and Australia since last June after saving money from marketing research work for the aerospace divisions of TRW and McDonnell Douglas.
The father said Bruce Cameron, owner of an Australian trading company in Hong Kong, had hired his son to help deliver the yacht to a buyer in Cyprus.
Cameron was apparently evacuated from South Yemen by Soviet officials, who were working with Britain, France, Italy and West Germany to evacuate their citizens following the collapse of Soviet-mediated peace talks in the Arab country Thursday.
The father said he was waiting for word from his son, who had called from the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, to learn when he might be able to leave Djibouti.
United Press International contributed to this story.