Update on Tongan rescue response

1 August 2007

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) is coordinating the rescue of the four Tongan men, aged 38, 30, 20 and 20 years, who are well equipped with food, water and lifejackets. 

The Orion reached the men around midnight yesterday, after they set off an emergency locator beacon earlier in the evening, which was detected by satellites monitored by RCCNZ.

The Orion has since dropped a radio to the men, who have reported that they have no power and are unable to get their engines started. The Orion is now returning to New Zealand to rest its crew, but may be sent out again if required.

Another Tongan fishing vessel is now heading for the men’s position, approximately
38 nautical miles (70km) North West of Vava’u, Tonga, to assist. It is expected to reach them early tomorrow morning. In the meantime, inquiries are continuing to see if any closer vessels may be available to assist.

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 are in need of assistance.”

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 (Thursday 2 August).

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