A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft prepares to leave RNZAF Base Auckland at Whenuapai this morning to help search for a Tongan fisherman who has been missing for two days in rough seas off the island of Mo’unga’one in the central part of Tonga.
5 August 2017
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is helping search for a Tongan fisherman who has been missing for two days in rough seas off the island of Mo’unga’one in the central part of the country.
Group Captain Nick Olney, the Acting Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft was taking part in the search for the fisherman following a request from the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).
He said the fisherman left Mo’unga’one island about 5am on Tuesday in a six-metre fibreglass boat to pick up five other fishermen from nearby Nukupule Island, about 16 kilometres away.
“He has a mobile phone but no communications and safety equipment on board,” Group Captain Olney said.
“We will do our best to search for him and we are hoping for a positive outcome.”
RCCNZ said a local policeman had advised the fisherman to postpone the trip because of the rough conditions. About two hours later the fisherman rang the cellphone tower in Tonga’s Pangai Island asking for help because his boat had broken down.
The search, which began on Tuesday, has involved local fishing vessels and a patrol boat from Tonga’s armed forces. A commercial aircraft that flies regularly between Tongatapu and Vava’u islands was asked on Wednesday to keep a lookout for the boat but has not seen it.
Local radio stations have also asked fishing vessels in the area to be on the lookout for the missing fisherman.
Group Captain Olney said the Orion was expected to reach the search area about midday.