Coast Guard assists in rescue of fishermen lost at sea for 3 days

14th Coast Guard District News
HONOLULU – A Coast Guard aircrew piloting an HC-130 Hercules aircraft assisted in the rescue of three fishermen who had been missing for three days and found approximately 100 miles west of Tarawa, Kiribati Thursday.

Watchstanders in Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu received an official request from the government of the Republic of Kiribati to assist in the search for the missing fishermen. The fishermen were last seen Monday aboard a 17-foot blue and white wooden skiff. Although the skiff was reportedly in the Area of Responsibility for Rescue Coordination Center Fiji, the Hercules aircrew launched from Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu at approximately 7 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time Wednesday and began searching at 1 p.m. HST Thursday.

To assist in the search, Coast Guard watchstanders utilized the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System to determine the search area with the highest probability for locating survivors. SAROPS is a computer program which calculates environmental factors such as weather, wind speed and direction, current speed and direction and the size of the search object. From that data, a search area is calculated. In addition to SAROPS, the aircrew deployed a self-locating data marker buoy, which also calculates and measures currents to better assist search and rescue teams in coordinating their search patterns.

“SAROPS is an additional tool in search and rescue planning, along with local knowledge and experience, to help better define search areas where Coast Guard assets are sent,” said Chief Petty Officer Christopher Martinez, an operations specialist at JRCC Honolulu.

The South Korean fishing vessel Oryung 335 was transiting in the area and spotted a watercraft matching the description of the skiff at 5 p.m. HST Thursday. The crew aboard the Oryung 335 notified Rescue Coordination Center Korea that they recovered three fishermen and their skiff. Rescue Coordination Center Korea notified the Kiribati government of the successful recovery. Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu members diverted the Hercules aircrew to the scene to establish communications and confirmed the names of the recovered fishermen with RCC Korea.

The mariners were overdue from a fishing trip and were located nearly 100 miles away from their intended fishing area. It was reported that they had no food aboard, but they had 20 liters of fresh water and were found to be in good condition. The crew of the Oryung 335 is transporting the fishermen and the skiff to Tarawa.

“The distance covered by launching an aircrew from Honolulu to Tarawa is so vast,” Martinez said, “it is similar to sending a fire truck from New York City to fight a fire in Los Angeles.”

The search area covered Thursday was approximately 48 miles by 40 miles. The rescued fishermen are 17, 19 and 27 year-old males.

In addition to the Hercules, local good Samaritans aboard vessels and aircraft were also involved in the search.

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