Three rescued from missing dinghy off Tokelau

Three men have been found safe and well after spending more than 30 hours lost in a 5m aluminium dinghy off the coast of Nukunono Atoll in Tokelau.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was alerted shortly after 3pm on Tuesday that the men were missing, after a squall separated a fleet of small fishing vessels.

An RNZAF P3 Orion flew to the area yesterday and located the dinghy at around 5pm, after 4 hours searching, about 33km east of Atafu.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Mike Roberts said the Orion refuelled and guided a local barge to the dinghy with the rescue completed about three hours later. The men have now been landed safely ashore and reunited with their families.

“This was a great result, with local knowledge helping to guide the search and excellent work by the crew of the Orion in finding the dinghy,” he said.

“The men had no lifejackets, flares or food, and a single bottle of water between them – they were obviously delighted when the Orion flew overhead. They had a relatively new outboard motor but it seems they lost sight of land after the squall and headed in the wrong direction.”