20 rescued near Marshall Islands after Coast Guard receives distress signal

C-130 Taking off from Barbers Point

USCG File Photo

HONOLULU – Twenty mariners have been rescued 90 miles northwest of Majuro, Republic of the Martial Islands, Friday after their vessel sank and an emergency distress signal was transmitted to the Coast Guard, setting off a multinational search for the crew.

At approximately 6:44 a.m. Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu received a distress signal from a 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Less than one hour later JRCC received a second emergency beacon transmission from the same area. Neither distress signal verified the source.

An aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point launched an HC-130 Hercules aircraft at 11 a.m. to search for the source of the distress signals.

Watchstanders at the JRCC were contacted by the Military Liaison Representative of the U.S. Embassy in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who verified the distress signals were from the motor vessel Jeljelet Ae. The vessel and its 20-person crew departed Majuro Thursday and were transporting construction materials to Likiep Atoll, approximately 200 nautical miles north of Majuro.

At approximately 2:50 p.m. an Air Marshall Islands aircraft spotted two life rafts in the water.

Several vessels set off from Majuro to search for the life rafts and crew. One of which was a Sea Patrol boat Lomor, which was coordinated and facilitated by the Australian technical adviser to the Republic of the Marshall Island’s Sea Patrol. A 30-foot sport fishing boat reached the life rafts at approximately 6 p.m. and reported it had rescued all 20 crewmembers. The Hercules aircrew reached the search area at the same time and escorted the boat back to Majuro.

“In the 14th District area of responsibility, one of the largest search and rescue AOR’s in the world, we rely on our international neighbors, Department of Defense partners, and other government agencies to successfully prosecute search and rescue cases,” said Lt. Chris Klein, a SAR coordinator in JRCC Honolulu.

The condition of the passengers is not known at this time. The Jeljelet Ae is reported to be gunmetal gray with orange, blue, and white markings. The vessel is believed to have sunk during heavy weather, which caused the crew to abandon ship.

The success of this operation was made possible by the use of EPIRBs. EPIRBs are portable radio beacons designed to alert multiple agencies, to include the Coast Guard, of a vessel’s position in the event of an emergency.

“Fortunately, this vessel had two operating EPIRBs which notified JRCC Honolulu when the vessel was in distress and allowed us to prepare and launch a C-130 directly to the scene,” Klein said.

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