A New Zealand Defence Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft last night located a dinghy with three lost souls aboard missing near Tokelau in the Pacific.
The dingy had been missing since Tuesday morning. All three occupants were well and uninjured.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy said the Air Force received a request for help from the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre after local resources in Tokelau had been exhausted searching for the missing four-metre dinghy.
“The Orion left Whenuapai on Wednesday morning and the crew conducted an extensive radar search of the area north of Samoa,” Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy said.
“The dinghy was located after several hours of searching.
“Once the dinghy was located the crew remained overhead until they needed to go to Samoa for refuelling.
“They then got airborne again and directed the surface rescue vessel, a local barge, to the correct coordinates and remained overhead until the vessel arrived.
“Due to the lack of emergency equipment on board the dinghy, and the difficulty of seeing it in the dark, the Orion’s contribution was an essential part of the successful rescue.
“It was an excellent result,” Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy said.
The three men in the dinghy were taken on board the rescue vessel and returned to Atafu atoll.
This was the second South Pacific emergency the Air Force has responded to this week.
On Tuesday a P-3K2 Orion located Tongan fishing vessel Pacific Sunrise, which had issued a distress signal due to no power and flat batteries on board.
The Orion successfully dropped a spare VHF radio to the vessel enabling the crew to re-establish essential communications and coordinate a rendezvous with another vessel.
To date this year New Zealand’s P-3K2 Orions have responded to 11 search-and-rescue emergencies involving 100 hours of flying time.