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Search for men missing off Tongan coast suspended

DATE: 3 SEPTEMBER 2008


Search for men missing off Tongan coast suspended

A search for two men missing at sea off the coast of Tonga since Friday 29 August has been suspended by the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ), in consultation with the Tongan Authorities.

The men, a 32-year-old from Vanuatu, and a 35-year-old from Tonga, took a diving party in two 25 foot (7.62m) open-topped fibreglass boats, to the Duff Reef area off Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu about 9am on Friday.

The last time either of the two divers saw the men was about 11am. When they resurfaced about 12pm, both the boats and the men had gone. The divers swam six kilometres to shore and raised the alarm.

Tongan police launched a search for the men, and yesterday (2 September) asked RCCNZ for assistance. A Royal New Zealand Defence Force Orion arrived at the search area at 9.30am (New Zealand time) today.

The Orion covered a search area of approximately 4000 square nautical miles (about 13,700 square kilometres) and completed its search about 5pm (NZ time).

Visibility in the area was good throughout the day, but no sign of the men or their boats was found. RCCNZ is confident if the vessels had been above water in the search area, they would have been located.

Taking into account the wide search area that has been covered, and the likelihood of survival of the two men, the decision was made to suspend the search.

The Orion will refuel in Tonga before returning to New Zealand.

RCCNZ will consider resuming the search if any new information comes to light.
ENDS


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