MAKASSAR, Indonesia (AP) – Fifteen people who spent nine days on a life raft after their ferry sank in the Java Sea – sharing emergency rations of food and water – were plucked from the water after the crew of a passing ship saw them waving for help.

One in the group – an 18-year-old – died hours after the rescue, which came Sunday after the life raft drifted 370 miles from where the Indonesian ferry carrying more than 600 people sank in stormy weather.

Baiman, a 25-year-old construction material supplier who was taken to the hospital as soon as he reached land, said Monday that four of the ferry’s crew members were among those on the life raft.

“Their knowledge of the sea helped us, especially when we were pounded by high waves and when the sun was blazing down on our raft,” he said. “They encouraged us and kept our spirit alive.”

Baiman, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, said he was in the ferry’s cafe when the ship turned dark and listed.

“Water rushed in and the boat started to sink. I tried to smash the window but I couldn’t,” Baiman told The Associated Press.

“Finally someone helped me break it and I swam into the sea. I was pulled into a life raft with 14 other people.”

Indonesia’s tropical waters are generally warm – from 72-84 degrees – and officials said people have been known to survive for days. Many of the Senopati Nusantara’s lifeboats were equipped with emergency rations of cookies, dry bread and water – including the one brought to shore Monday. It also had an emergency whistle.

“We shared the food and water and saved some of it until we were rescued,” said Baiman.

About 245 people have been found alive since the ferry sank after being pummeled by 12-foot-high waves just before midnight Dec. 29, but only 13 bodies have been recovered.

More than 400 people remain missing, and one survivor, 35-year-old Sugyiyono, said Monday he believed many of them were trapped inside the ship when it went down.

Eko Supriyanto, a member of the cargo ship crew who picked up the latest survivors, called their story “a miracle.”

“We heard someone whistling a signal of danger and then saw 15 people on a life raft waving their arms and realized they must be survivors of the Senopati Nusantara,” he told The AP.

“They were weak and sunburned, but otherwise safe except for one boy, 18-year-old Agus, who was suffering from asthma and in critical condition,” Supriyanto said. “He died hours after our crew picked him up.”

Family members were anxiously waiting for loved ones at the Makassar port Monday after learning they were found alive.

“My heart was beating so fast when I heard the ship sank and waited for news about my son,” said Thalib, 40, tears rolling down her cheek. “When I was told he had been rescued I said ‘Thanks be to God’!”

Ferries are a main source of transportation in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands with a population of 220 million. Overcrowding and poorly enforced safety standards mean accidents are common.

The Senopati Nusantara was sailing from Borneo Island to the country’s main island of Java when it capsized, apparently after waves washed into the car deck and became trapped there, a government investigator said. Similar accidents have occurred on other “roll-on, roll-off” ferries around the world, leading to calls for a change in their design.

In 2000, almost 500 people died when a ferry carrying Christians fleeing religious violence in the eastern Maluku islands capsized. A year later, 350 were killed when a boat carrying asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan sank after setting sail from Java to Australia.

Seasonal storms in Indonesia have triggered deadly landslides, flooding and at least six maritime accidents. A jetliner with 102 people on board disappeared last week in heavy winds and is still missing.

AP-ES-01-08-07 1730EST