NZDF

NZDF Finds Missing Tongan Fisherman Alive

The New Zealand Defence Force has found the Tongan fisherman who has been missing for two days, adrift on his six-metre boat in the Pacific Ocean.
The New Zealand Defence Force has found the Tongan fisherman who has been missing for two days, adrift on his six-metre boat in the Pacific Ocean.

5 October 2017

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has found the Tongan fisherman who has been missing for two days, adrift on his six-metre boat in the Pacific Ocean.

Group Captain Nick Olney, the Acting Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft found the missing man shortly after arriving in the search area about midday.

The Orion had given the boat’s location to a patrol boat from Tonga’s armed forces, which was about 28 kilometres away and was also involved in the search, Group Captain Olney said. The patrol boat rescued the fisherman early this afternoon.

“We are pleased that we were able to help bring about this successful outcome. This is great news for the fisherman, his family and friends,” Group Captain Olney said.

“When they flew past the crew saw the man standing on the canopy of his boat, waving a flag.

“I would like to commend our crew and everyone involved for a job well done. Without any survival or location equipment this man is exceptionally lucky to have been found by our crew.”

The NZDF took part in the search, which began on Tuesday after a request from the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

The fisherman left Mo’unga’one Island about 5am on Tuesday in a fibreglass boat to pick up five other fishermen from nearby Nukupule Island, about 16 kilometres away.

He had a mobile phone but no communications and safety equipment on board.

A policeman had advised the fisherman to postpone the trip because of the rough conditions, RCCNZ said. 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 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 had not seen it.

Local radio stations had also asked fishing vessels in the area to be on the lookout for the missing fisherman.

This page was last reviewed on 8 October 2017, and is current.