NZ Air Force, US Coast Guard rescue family 

The family wave as the RNZAF Orion crew fly overhead for the first pass
The family wave as the RNZAF Orion crew fly overhead for the first pass (WN10-006-33tn)

8 November 2010

A family of four drifting at sea for six days in an aluminium dinghy off Kiribati has been rescued by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Orion crew, working closely with the US Coast Guard.

The two adults and  two children  were spotted on Saturday, 6 November 2010 by the Air Force crew, having been last seen almost a week earlier when they began a 12km journey from Ukiangang to Tikurere Islands, in Butaritaro Atoll, before their four metre dinghy developed engine problems.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) were called in to provide assistance to Kiribati officials after they exhausted local efforts to find them.

A joint US Coast Guard and RNZAF rescue mission was launched. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Honolulu diverted the US Coast Guard Cutter (USCG) "RUSH" to the search area early on Saturday morning and began two 2-hour searches using their HH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

The Air Force Orion arrived on scene at approximately 3:30pm Saturday afternoon and co-ordinated their search efforts with the USCG RUSH.

After a short search, the Orion crew located the missing family and remained overhead while the USCG RUSH deployed a fast boat to their location – picking them up at approximately 6pm.

Orion Captain Flight Lieutenant Nathan McMaster says apart from suffering from dehydration, the family are all alive and well.

"Its always good to get a positive outcome to these search and rescues. The co-ordinated effort between New Zealand and Honolulu rescue co-ordination centres, and between the US Coast Guard and ourselves worked seamlessly and is an example of how important our ability to operate with other nations is," he says.


For further information please contact Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki phone 021 420 899


No 5 Squadron is one of the force elements under the command of the Air Component Commander JFHQ. Located at RNZAF Base Auckland, the Squadron is the RNZAF's only maritime patrol Squadron covering New Zealand's maritime area of interest which is approximately one-twelfth of the world's ocean surface, ranging from the Antarctic to the equator.

To meet NZDF Maritime Patrol Force requirements, No.5 Squadron provides:

  • Maritime surveillance
  • Maritime reconnaissance
  • Exclusive economic zone patrols
  • Anti-surface warfare operations
  • Anti submarine warfare operations
  • Search and rescue

The Squadron has approximately 126 personnel and is allocated 2,500 flying hours per year.

This page was last reviewed on 17 January 2011.