NZ Defence aircraft joins search for Tongan missing fisherman

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has sent a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft to search for a Tongan fisherman whose boat suffered engine failure while fishing off the main island of Tongatapu on Saturday.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Air Component Commander, said the Orion left Whenuapai in Auckland following a request from the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand and is due to reach the search area about 4.45pm.

The fisherman rang his family on his mobile phone about 6pm on Saturday after the engine of his 4.8-metre boat failed and he has not been heard from since.

The boat is believed to be between the Tongan islands of Tongatapu and Eua.

“The crew will try to find the vessel and establish communications with the skipper so we can ascertain the problem and provide assistance as required,” Air Commodore Webb said.

“Tongan authorities have launched a search but have had no success to date.”

The search area is estimated at about 16,600 square kilometres.


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