Beacon speeds up rescue response

31 July 2007

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) is co-ordinating the rescue of four Tongan men in a fishing boat in trouble off the Tongan coast, after they triggered an emergency beacon earlier this evening.

A Royal New Zealand Airforce Orion departed Auckland’s Whenuapai airbase just before 8pm to search for the men, whose last recorded position was about 38 nautical miles (70km) north west of Vava’u, Tonga. The aircraft is expected to reach the area around midnight tonight.

The men are aged 38, 30, 20 and 20 years and are well equipped with food, water and lifejackets.

RCCNZ mission controller Neville Blakemore said the fact that the men were using both a dual frequency beacon and a  406 Megahertz (MHz) beacon, meant they were able to be detected by satellite much quicker.

“While carrying any kind of emergency beacon is an excellent safety precaution which we encourage, the more modern 406Mhz beacons are able to be detected much more quickly by satellite than the older style 121Mhz beacons, which are gradually being phased out,” Mr Blakemore said.

“This means that any emergency response is greatly speeded up, which is good for everybody concerned – not least those who might be in trouble.”

Mr Blakemore said because 406 beacons were registered to an owner, this provided rescuers with access to valuable information about a vessel and its equipment and crew, which greatly assisted in the coordination of a search.

Tongan authorities are also assisting in the search for the four men.

A further update will be provided tomorrow morning (Wednesday 1st August).

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