Two days after being reported missing at sea, the 40-year-old father and his 14-year old son were found alive on their fishing boat north of Nuku’alofa.
Siosifa Pepa and Tevita Pepa were spotted waving their t-shirts from Hunga Tonga island an hour after the Royal New Zealand Airforce P-3K2 Orion began scouring Tonga’s seas.
The aircraft left New Zealand this morning at 8.45am.
The men were dropped water, food and a radio by the Airforce and the Tongan Police have contacted their family.
Reports from the aircraft crew said the men appear to be well, and their blue wooden boat was intact.
Tongan Police Commissioner Steve Caldwell said: “I am happy that we can return Sifa and his son Tevita to their loved ones for Christmas.”
The P3K2 Orion arrived and conducted the aerial search at around 1:00pm this afternoon Tuesday 13 December. he said.
They located the missing boat at approximately 2:00pm at Hunga Tonga and HMAF Voea Pangai was deployed at 2:30pm with 2 Police Officers on board to pick them up.
The VOEA Pangai was on its way back to Nuku’alofa with Sifa and Tevita, the Commissioner said.
The P3K2 Orion has returned to New Zealand and Commissioner of Police Steve Caldwell wishes to acknowledge the RCCNZ and RNZAF for their assistance in making sure that Sifa and Tevita will be returned home safely to their family.
“Their quick and professional response was overwhelming, and I pass on my heartfelt thanks, as well as the families,” Caldwell said.
“We also want to thank HMAF for their valuable assistance, and local fishermen who assisted in the initial sea search. We also appreciate the great work of the MET Office and Coastal Radio.”
Since the launch of the 3 new police SAR boats in December 2015, police have saved 67 lives, from 20 Police SAR operations.