Rescue vessel, Waimana.
26 April 2011
Late last night an unregistered 406 MHz emergency locator beacon signal was received by the Rescue Coordination Centre in Lower Hutt.
The beacon was picked up approx 50 nautical miles north west of Nuku Alofa, Tonga. Attempts to broadcast to any vessels in the area has been met with nil response. A Tongan Patrol Vessel was being prepared to move to the area.
A Number 5 Squadron P-3K Orion was launched from Whenuapai Air Base, RNZAF Auckland at 11:30PM on 25 Apr 2011 to search for, detect and determine the nature of the vessel's distress.The aircraft arrived in the area just after 3am, Tuesday 26 April 2011.
The Orion crew immediately heard the short-range beacon signal and established communications with the charter fishing vessel “Predator”, who informed them that they had had an engine failure and were drifting towards coral reefs in the area.
A nearby vessel, the “Waimana” made best speed and was directed towards the stricken vessel by the Orion crew. The Waimana reached the Predator at daybreak (7AM), as the Orion circled overhead. The Predator reported that they were taking on water, and Waimana took them in tow back to Nuku’alofa.
The Tongan patrol boat “Pangai” was also dispatched from Nuku’alofa and arrived just after the Predator was taken in tow. Pangai escorted the vessels back to Nuku’alofa today.
The Orion landed in Tonga to refuel and is now back in New Zealand.
For more information please contact Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki, Senior Media Adviser Air Force on 021 420 899.