“Search and rescue Operation over the weekend”

Media Release

Monday 6 February 2017

Please attribute statement to Deputy Commissioner Pelenatita Fe’ao Vaisuai, Tonga Police

Tonga Police Maritime Search and Rescue Team coordinated 4 different marine Search and Rescue operations, one (1) since Friday, 3 February and three (3) on Saturday morning 4 February. Twenty one (21) lives were rescued with one life lost.

Search and rescue Operation at Ha’atafu

A 46-year old man from Ha’atafu died on Saturday 4 February, 2017 from drowning.

The deceased with another 42 year-old man from Ha’atafu went out on their regular long-line fishing trips at around 6:00 am, and returned after 3 hours out at sea. It was on their way back to land that their boat was hit by a big wave and seawater came into the boat.

The deceased fearing that the boat will capsize jumped out in to the water and his body was later brought to shore by the waves.

Police from Nukunuku Station were called in to the scene and transported the decease’s body to Vaiola Hospital. According to report from the Doctor, the 46-year old man died from drowning.

The deceased is survived by his wife and daughter.

Search and rescue Operation ‘Atata boat

At 10:55am on Saturday, 4 February, Police in Nuku’alofa were informed of a boat departing to Nuku’alofa from ‘Atata, carrying six (6) people and has capsized near the shore at Sopu.

Police from Nuku’alofa Central Station helped to bring 4 passengers out of the water and transported them home, while the skipper and another crew stayed to salvage their boat.

Search and rescue Operation re: FV ‘Elenoa 1 at Vava’u

RCCNZ picked up an active beacon and relayed this information to Tonga Police Maritime Team on Friday 3, February. The beacon belongs to a local fishing vessel FV ‘Elenoa 1.

FV ‘Elenoa 1 experienced an engine problem 20 miles south of Vava‟u. There were 8 people on board.

Another local fishing vessel made an attempt to reach the FV ‘Elenoa 1 on Friday, 3 February but was forced to return to Neiafu due to rough seas. The same fishing vessel made an attempt again on the next day, Saturday 4, February and it successfully reached the distressed boat and towed it back to Neiafu safely along with the 8 people on board.

Both boats arrived at Neiafu at approximately 4:50pm Saturday 4, February, 2017.

Search and Rescue Operation re: FV Losemani Fo’ou

RCCNZ alerted Tonga Police at 2:05am, Saturday 4, February, to an active beacon 400km south west of Tonga. RCCNZ coordinated the deployment of a RNZAF plane, P3 Orion which located the boat in distress, identified to be Tongan fishing vessel, FV Losemani Fo’ou.

Food, water, emergency supplies and a radio were dropped from the Orion to the distressed FV Losemani Fo’ou.

With the radio, RCCNZ could confirm that the boat had a flat battery and was leaking. There were also 6 people on board including the skipper and owner of the boat. They had been out of drinking water for three (3) days.

At about 5:00am, RCCNZ alerted the German cruise ship, Albatros, which was in the area about the distressed vessel. The Albatros then diverted from its course and reached the FV Losemani Fo’ou at 2:30pm Saturday 4, February.

All of the 6 fishermen were transferred onboard the Albatros, where they were checked by a Doctor and confirmed to be well.

Deputy Commissioner Pelenatita Fe’ao Vaisuai emphasizes the importance of taking precautions and safety measures before embarking on their voyages. To make sure that they have a communication means, life jacket, emergency flares and a beacon, a sea worthy vessel and to check the weather forecast.

Deputy Commissioner Vaisuai wishes to acknowledge the RCCNZ and RNZAF for their much valued assistance in making sure that all rescued fishermen will be returned home safely to their families. “Their quick and professional response was overwhelming, and I pass on my heartfelt thanks, on behalf of the Tongan Government and the families of those rescued.”

Tonga Police would also like to acknowledge the assistance from local fishermen as well as the coastal radio.

-ENDS-

Issued by the: Tonga Police Media & Communication Officer, Tonga Police Headquarters, Longolongo, (676) 23 318, (676) 23 323 Fax: (676) 23 036; for media enquiries – Email: siaadams@police.gov.to or siaadams@gmail.com

Media Release Safety in the water

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