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Update On The Search For Trooper Joshua Porter

Department of Defence Media Mail List

CPA 340/06 Sunday, 3 December 2006

Update On The Search For Trooper Joshua Nathan Noel Porter:

On 29 Nov 06, while HMAS Kanimbla was operating near Fiji, a Blackhawk helicopter from 171 Aviation Squadron, carrying four crew and six soldiers from the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) crashed and sank in 2300 meters of water. Nine personnel were recovered and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations commenced immediately for the missing soldier, Trooper Joshua Porter.

Since the crash of the Blackhawk on 29 Nov 06, the ADF has conducted an extensive search for Trooper Porter. The search has been based on a known crash position, has been conducted in good weather conditions, and has made the best use of the considerable resources available to the Task Group. These resources include HMAS Kanimbla, Newcastle and Success and their embarked ships, boats and helicopters, including a Seahawk helicopter, and an AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

The assistance of the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Australia, part of the Australian Search and Rescue Authority (AUSSAR) was also requested and their guidance incorporated into planning.

Despite the collection of some small pieces of debris on the evening of 29 Nov 06, the search has been unsuccessful and the chances of finding Trooper Porter alive have now diminished.

By 4pm today, Sunday 3 December 2006, Trooper Porter had been missing for more than 96 hours. Given the prevailing weather conditions and based on the assumption that Trooper Porter escaped the aircraft and was wearing an inflated life jacket, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AAMSA) Search and Rescue (SAR) Branch advises that this is the extreme range of predicted survivability for Trooper Porter. If the flotation device did not inflate, he is unlikely to have survived beyond 36 hours.

As such, it is with great regret that Trooper Porter was declared missing presumed dead at 4pm this afternoon. Our sympathies go to all of Trooper Porter’s family.

Defence will continue searching for Trooper Porter’s body.

Overview of ADF search for Trooper Joshua Porter

At the time of the crash Kanimbla was stopped in the water and embarked force divers had just completed in-water training. In support of the divers, ship’s boats were in the water and Kanimbla’s large stern ramp was lowered. As the Blackhawk crashed and sank in the immediate vicinity of Kanimbla, divers were able to immediately re-enter the water to assist in the recovery of the survivors.

The crash position was carefully recorded onboard Kanimbla, using highly accurate Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment. A man-overboard smoke/flare marker was also deployed as a visual reference, and this was replaced shortly later by a danbuoy, which is a floating reference marker with a radar reflector fitted to the top that facilitates tracking on radar systems.

HMAS Newcastle, which was some distance away, was ordered to immediately close at best speed and to launch her Seahawk helicopter to take over the airborne search. The Seahawk is fitted with a Forward Looking Infra Red surveillance system, which is designed to be able to distinguish objects on the sea at night, as well as sonar equipment.

A search plan based upon the detailed guidance provided to Royal Australian Navy ships, both in Naval Publications and in the Search and Rescue manual produced by the Australian Search and Rescue Authority (AUSSAR) was developed and implemented. The assistance of the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Australia, part of AUSSAR, was also requested and their guidance incorporated in planning. These search calculations took into consideration the known currents, wind speed and direction, and other environmental factors. Using all information available, including updated information provided by RCC Australia, these calculations have been updated throughout the search.

The replenishment ship HMAS Success joined the search later in the evening of 29 November and an AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft of the RAAF joined the following day. Ships involved have employed their electro-optical and Infra Red Search devices, as well as their embarked ships’ boats throughout the search.


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