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Air Force Rescues Four From Circling Sharks

June 9 2006

Air Force Rescues Four From Circling Sharks

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A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion has today helped rescue four people west of Tonga.

The crew of the Orion found the group clinging to debris and with no lifejackets shortly before 1pm. The captain of the aircraft reported seeing sharks near the group.

A liftraft was dropped from the aircraft, which stayed in the area to coordinate a successful rendezvous with a local vessel at approx 2pm.

It was the second successful search and rescue mission for the Air Force crew today.

The aircraft initially left RNZAF Base Whenuapai at 4.20am after a signal from an emergency beacon was picked up near Tonga.

Once in the search area the Orion discovered the fishing vessel the Pacific Sunrise, which had lost battery power, and coordinated a successful rendezvous with another vessel.

The captain of the Pacific Sunrise sent a message of thanks to the people involved in the search.

"We would like to express our sincere gratitude with your assistance to us this morning with the help of the RNZAF plane," the statement read.

The Orion was on its way back to New Zealand when it was diverted and subsequently found the four people in the water.

The aircraft is due to return to New Zealand this evening

ENDS

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