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Abandoned Ship Sparks Air Force Call Out

New Zealand Defence Force
Te Ope Kaatua O Aotearoa

Media Release

21 November 2008

Abandoned Ship Sparks Air Force Call Out – Update 1

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion is continuing its search and rescue (SAR) mission for 29 fishermen missing in the ocean off Kiribati.

The Air Force in coordination with the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) became alerted after theTa Ching 21 was located by a Korean fishing boat in a burnt out condition, still afloat but with no one on board in the Fiji SAR region on 9 November.

An initial search for the crew of Taiwanese, Chinese, Filipino and Indonesian nationals was conducted by a US Air Force C-130 Hercules on 12 November without success.

After a 12 hour SAR flight yesterday the RNZAF Orion and crew left Samoa at 6.00am (NZDT) this morning to cover another third of the 21000 sq mile search area.

The P-3K Orion captain Squadron Leader Mike Pearson said the search was particularly challenging because the search area is based on the ‘best estimate’ given the absence of a rescue beacon to target in on.

“We flew over a French Naval vessel yesterday and provided the search details to them also. They put up their onboard helicopter for 90 minutes to assist us which was a huge benefit.

“I have a very experienced crew with me onboard and although this is one of the toughest SAR missions we have been tasked to do, if the fishermen are in the search area we remain hopeful that we will find them,” said Squadron Leader Pearson

The RNZAF Orion crew is expected to land in Samoa at 4.30pm NZDT today. They will cover the remaining search area tomorrow before re-evaluating the search in conjunction with the Fijian and New Zealand RCC’s.


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