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Missing Kiribati fisherman found after six days at sea

Wednesday 18 January 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Kiribati, Regional

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Missing Kiribati fisherman found after six days at sea
Two Kiribati fishermen have been found after a search by crew on an Air Force Orion Photo: NZDF / 23011805

A New Zealand Air Force Orion crew has successfully located two Kiribati fishermen.

The Orion crew found the two men in their dinghy shortly after arriving in the search area on Monday afternoon.

The two men had been missing from Kiribati for six days, with several agencies involved in the search and rescue operation.

The Fiji Rescue Coordination Centre requested assistance after the two men were reported missing. Maritime New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) provided drift modelling and search areas.

The US Coast Guard sent a C-130 aircraft to search the area but was unsuccessful before the RNZAF Orion joined the search.

After finding the men, the Orion crew dropped a survival pack to them which included water, a radio, a torch and an activated personal locator beacon to pinpoint their location for the crew on a rescue vessel.

Kiribati search and rescue vessel MV Lady Guadalupe was dispatched to the pair's location to take the men to safety.

This will probably be the Orion fleet's last search and rescue mission.

The Orions have provided a range of services to New Zealand government agencies, the community and in the South Pacific, including search and rescue missions, humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

They are now being replaced by four Boeing P-8A Poseidons, the first of which arrived in New Zealand last month. The other three are due to arrive in the coming months.

RNZAF Base Commander Auckland, Group Captain Mike Cannon, said the flight was expected to be the last search and rescue mission using an Orion.

"Our Orion aircraft and the generations of people that have flown, maintained and supported them have certainly proved their worth over many years of service, conducting long-range maritime surveillance patrols in a range of theatres.

"To do this mission, finding two men on a tiny boat in a vast area of ocean, is certainly a fitting end to the Orion's search and rescue duties and the crew is obviously thrilled with the result."

RCCNZ General Manager Justin Allan said the Orion had been at the heart of New Zealand's ability to deliver lifesaving search and rescue services across its vast maritime area of responsibility.

"The aircraft and its crews over several decades have saved hundreds of lives, off the coast of New Zealand and throughout the Pacific.

"For many people missing at sea, the sight of the Orion coming towards them will be one they will never forget," he said.