Busy morning for rescuers

6 November 2007, 10:20am

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) received its first distress call via VHF radio at 1:15am when two crew members advised their 26ft yacht, Sander, was taking on water 52km offshore from Ninety Mile Beach.

Unfavourable flying conditions prevented a helicopter search, but RCCNZ’s broadcasts to vessels for assistance, saw a container ship respond and locate Sander.

RCCNZ incident controller, Keith Allen, said the crew were able to identify that the leak was coming from the engine water pump.  They stopped the yacht’s engine, which quickly reduced the water level, he said. The crew are now being assisted by engineers aboard HMNZS Endeavour, which was also in the vicinity.  If engineers cannot fix the problem, arrangements will be made for Sander to be towed to safety.

The second incident involved a search for a 60ft yacht, Lightspeed, about 300km south east of Norfolk Island after its 406 distress beacon was detected by satellite at 5:15am.

RCCNZ tasked a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules to assist and immediately broadcast mayday calls to any ships in the area. A Panama-registered car carrier located the yacht about 7:40am and the Hercules was stood down. The Master of the car carrier was able to communicate with Lightspeed.  Three people are on board the yacht.  There are no injuries but the yacht’s rudder and engine are broken.

RCCNZ Incident Controller, Ramon Davis, said weather conditions are too rough for the three people on board to transfer onto the car carrier, but a container vessel with lower sides has offered assistance and is expected to rendezvous with the yacht before midday. RCCNZ expect the crew to abandon their yacht.

Mr Davis said carrying an emergency beacon – particularly the newer 406 Megahertz type beacon – was an excellent safety precaution and in this case helped accelerate Lightspeed’s rescue response.

“The 406 MHZ beacon is detected by satellite much quicker than the older style 121.5 MHz beacons and because the 406 MHz beacon is registered with a land-based emergency contact person, we were able to communicate with family members and gain extremely valuable information from the outset,” said Mr Davis.

RCCNZ will provide further information has it comes to hand.

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