Man saved from burning fishing vessel off Westport

15 February 2019

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A lone fisherman is lucky to be alive after the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ plucked him from a life raft after his boat caught fire.

RCCNZ received an alert from an EPIRB distress beacon at 11 am today, from the vessel located 12 miles west off Cape Foulwind, Westport.

The team sent the Greymouth search and rescue helicopter and airlifted the man from the life raft and took him to hospital for a medical check.

RCCNZ Watch Leader / Senior Search and Rescue Officer Geoff Lunt said, “It was a successful operation and we acted immediately. The satellite technology allows for alerts to be received within minutes of someone activating a distress beacon. The satellite detected the beacon at 11:00 am this morning and RCCNZ received the alert at 11:06 am.”

“If he hadn’t had his distress beacon he may still be out there now,” Mr Lunt said.

“We don’t know what communications he had on the fishing vessel, or if he had time to use the radio to make a distress call. The beacon allowed for a swift response and a successful rescue.”

Float-free EPIRB distress beacons that can activate automatically became compulsory on commercial fishing vessels from 1 January 2019. This requirement applies to those vessels between 7.5 metres and 24 metres operating outside enclosed waters.

RCCNZ is responsible for a search and rescue region which covers 30 million square km stretching from Antarctica almost to the equator.

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