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HomeNew ZealandRNZAF Orion crew finds two missing fishing boats in five-day Pacific mission

RNZAF Orion crew finds two missing fishing boats in five-day Pacific mission

Survivors on a boat which was located well away from its original path to Suva, drifting in open water.

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Survivors on a boat which was located well away from its original path to Suva, drifting in open water.
Photo: Supplied by New Zealand Defence Force

A New Zealand Defence Force plane has helped save the lives of seven Kiribati and Fijian people while in the Pacific for five days.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion crew carried out three separate search and rescue operations while in the region.

The first search, began on Saturday, when the Orion was deployed to Kiribati to look for a six-metre wooden fishing boat with three men aboard, which had been missing since Wednesday.

The same day, the Orion crew received a second request to search for another boat with four people aboard, also reported missing from Kiribati.

The crew located this boat on Sunday, and provided them with a survival pack which included water, chocolate, a strobe light and a torch.

They also provided information about how the four would be rescued and activated a locator beacon.

The locator beacon then allowed the Kiribati rescue vessel, Natinteraoi, to find the missing fisherman and rescue them.

Survivors on a boat from Kiribati were dropped a survival pack with an activated locator beacon which pinpointed their location for rescuers.

Survivors on a boat from Kiribati were dropped a survival pack with an activated locator beacon which pinpointed their location for rescuers.
Photo: Supplied by New Zealand Defence Force Public Affairs

The Orion crew meanwhile resumed looking for the first fishing boat. Unfortunately despite extensive efforts over the weekend and on Monday, they were unable to locate the vessel.

The plane was meant to return to Auckland on Tuesday but bad weather forced an overnight stay in Fiji.

But the delay was most fortuitous as on Tuesday they received a third request for help searching for a fishing boat. This one overdue returning after departing Gau Island for Suva, Fiji on Saturday night.

The Orion crew found the boat drifting in open water about 40 nautical miles to the southeast – and going away from – Kadavu Island, on Wednesday morning.

They once again provided a survival pack and activated a locator beacon which allowed the occupants to be rescued and returned to safety by the Fiji Police.

“It’s been an incredible achievement by our crew, and search and rescue staff in New Zealand, Fiji, and Kiribati, to find two groups of survivors that were drifting in boats without power in vast areas of ocean far from land or any other vessels,” Air Component Commander Air Commodore Shaun Sexton said.

Those involved in the searches felt for the friends and whānau of the fishermen who had not been found, he said.

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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