The New Zealand Defence Force has found a Tongan fisherman missing since last weekend – safe but sunburned, adrift in an inflatable life raft off the island of Eua.
CAPTION: A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion has found the Tongan fisherman, who has been missing since Saturday, safe but sunburned, adrift in an inflatable life raft off the island of Eua. NZDF photo.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion used in the search, which was supervised by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), spotted the man waving with his oars about mid-afternoon.
“The man was not in the fishing boat that the search request from the Tongan authorities had described but he clearly was in distress. He appeared well but sunburned,” Air Commodore Webb said.
“The Orion crew passed on the information to the Tongan Navy, which dispatched a patrol boat to the life raft about 13km south-east of Eua.”
The aircraft remained on scene until the Tongan Navy patrol boat reached the life raft about 4.30pm.
NZDF sent the Orion to search for the fisherman yesterday, following a request from the RCCNZ.
The crew stayed overnight in Tonga and resumed the search this morning.
The man was fishing between the Tongan islands of Tongatapu and Eua on Saturday when his 4.8m boat suffered engine failure.
He rang his family on his mobile phone about 6pm that day to seek help and he had not been heard from since.
Tongan authorities had searched without success before requesting assistance from New Zealand.