Double success in Pacific island searches

A man and his six-year-old nephew, missing overnight in a 5m aluminium boat, have been found 70km north west of Manihiki Atoll in the northern Cook Islands by the crew of an RNZAF P3 Orion re-routed after originally being dispatched to search for two men missing off Kiribati.

The two Kiribati men, missing since Wednesday, were in a 4.3m wooden boat overdue on a voyage from Maiana Island to Tarawa Island. They were found by a commercial fishing boat while the Orion was en route from Samoa to the area.

The RNZAF aircraft was then re-routed to the northern Cooks by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), and went on to locate the uncle and his nephew after about 90 minutes of searching.

A second Orion that left Whenuapai for the Cooks this morning to help with that search is now understood to be carrying out fisheries patrol duties.

The Cooks Islands pair appeared in good health, Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Christine Wilson said.

“The outboard had been brought inboard, so it seems they had broken down, but the child was well wrapped up and the man was able to signal for help,” she said.

“The Cook Island Police had organised a good search yesterday, including using local vessels and an aircraft from Air Rarotonga, but they requested assistance from the Orion overnight. It’s a real credit to the Orion crew that they’ve found such a small vessel so quickly.

“Everyone at RCCNZ is delighted to have two searches, involving four people, resolved successfully in a single day.”