US Coast Guard saves lives en-route to Honolulu

26 May 2017

Just a day after taking part in a multi-national rescue drill over Auckland Harbour, the crew of a US Coast Guard C-130 Hercules has helped save six Tongan fishermen while en-route home to Honolulu.

This time it was a ‘real live’ joint services exercise, with the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand coordinating the Coast Guard crew, and Tongan Police and Tongan Navy to collect the missing fishermen at 6am this morning.

RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer Greg Johnston says the C-130 Hercules was about to head home from Whenuapai to Honolulu, after attending the Pacific Search and Rescue Conference in Auckland this week, when a call came in at 11.30am yesterday from Tongan Police. The alarm had been raised with Police about a missing group of six that had been at sea for a week.

RCCNZ calculated the search area and were aware the US Coast Guard C-130 would be flying through this part of the Pacific.

Greg says the Coast Guard crew spotted the six men in their 12 metre vessel shortly after entering the search area, about 90 kilometres off-shore from Tongatapu Island. They dropped the stricken men food, water, a radio and a transponder.

RCCNZ then liaised with Tongan Police and the Tongan Navy about their location and rescue by sea. A Navy vessel headed to the location overnight, picking up the men early this morning.

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