David Chan is coming home - not as the leader of a triumphant crusade, but draped in the Chinese flag he waved so defiantly just before a horrible misadventure in the disputed seas around the Diaoyu Islands. The 46-year-old father of two died carrying out his pledge to at least swim in what he insisted were the Daioyu's 'Chinese waters'. His body will be flown in from Taipei, arriving at about 1.30 pm today. He and three fellow protesters on the tanker Kien Hwa No 2 dived into the water at 9.27 am. Three of them were strung together on one rope. Thirteen minutes later tragedy had struck an otherwise peaceful expedition to challenge Japan's 'occupation' of the Diaoyu Islands. The intrepid foursome entered the water with the ship moving at 10 nautical miles an hour. Some Japanese coastguards sailed parallel with us. The captain, after having slowed the ship slightly, told them that if they insisted on going in they should do so as soon as possible. Otherwise, he said, they would have to call the exercise off because he had to deal with the Japanese ships. The four were smiling and waving as they insisted on going in. Once over the side, they were swept to the rear of the ship as it steamed on. The rope they called their lifeline had been tied in an incorrect way. They were unable to undo it. To make matters worse the ropes were secured around the waist. The protesters, all wearing life jackets, were struggling for survival. They tried to grasp a trailing ladder to climb back on to the deck, but the rolling sea and rolling ship made it virtually impossible. Someone screamed for help. The captain ordered more ropes over the side to try to rescue them. It was a terrible scene. One man was hanging in the air. Another was just above water. Chan was half immersed, his Diaoyu adventure about to end in death. Other boats moved around the stern of the Kien Hwa No 2 as we shouted for help. But it was impossible. The heavy seas were threatening to pitch the vessels into the tanker. Other protesters crawled down a ladder to helped them aboard. By the time it was Fong's turn he was nearly exhausted, dangling heavily as he was hauled up. Chan was a metre of so below him - last on the rope - and was dunked many times as the sea heaved against the rusting side of the ship. He had let go of the rope. He was in trouble, exhausted by the effort. It took at least 20 minutes to pull them all back to the deck - too long in that sea. Chan was unconscious. Everybody quickly gathered round. They gave him heart massage and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but nothing happened. Somebody said there was no pulse, no breathing. Fong remained conscious and was able to speak. A Japanese helicopter arrived to take Fong away for medical treatment, but not Chan. We feared the worst when they did not bother to take him away with Fong. Another Japanese officer, who had dropped on the deck from the helicopter, began pumping his chest. It seemed to go on forever. But then a doctor arrived. At 1.03 pm he looked up from his patient. David Chan was dead. As the reality of the tragedy sunk in, some of the protesters were just in shock, many of them just holding each other. Then there were arguments. They blamed the captain. How could he left them go in the sea, they demanded to know. But then the recriminations ended. The enormity of the tragedy was just too much. All the while, scores of boats were around us. Some from Taiwan carrying journalists, most the Japanese coastguard boats which had kept their distance while the protesters were fighting for their lives. But they soon began to disperse, most heading back for Keelung. There were stories to write, pictures to file. The world had to know that the ultimate sacrifice had been made for a handful of barren rocks in a hostile sea.