On 15 May, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) reported that one of its P-3K2 Orion plane crews had found three Kiribati fishermen who had been missing since 7 May. The men were located adrift near Tarawa, the Pacific Islands nation’s capital and main atoll. The Orion team also spotted another skiff drifting near Tarawa that had no crew onboard.
The Orion, from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 5 Squadron, took off at 06:30 hrs on 14 May to search for the missing fishermen, and spotted them waving from their 16-ft (five-metre) skiff soon after reaching the search area at around 13:30 hrs. The crew dropped emergency supplies of food, water, a torch and a radio to the men, who appeared to be in good health. The fishermen were advised to await the arrival of the Kiribati patrol boat MV Tina Teroai, which at that time was about 70 miles south of the area where the skiff was drifting. The men were picked up by the patrol boat at around midnight.
The survivors, aged from 34 to 47, were last seen fishing between Tarawa and Maina atolls at around 10:00 hrs on 7 May. The NZDF’s assistance was requested through Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand on 13 May.
“It was a successful search that saved three lives. The fishermen did not appear to have any survival equipment so it is fortunate that our Orion found them,” said Air Component Commander Air Commodore Darryn Webb.