Coast Guard suspends search for missing mariners in the Republic of Marshall Islands

C-130 Taking off from Barbers Point

USCG File Photo

HONOLULU – The Coast Guard suspended search and rescue operations at 8:15 a.m. Friday, for the missing mariners who left Arno Atoll about 3 p.m. Nov. 25, but failed to arrive at Majuro.

“Suspending any search without positive outcome is the most difficult decision as district commander has to make,” said Rear. Adm. Charles W. Ray, the 14th Coast Guard District’s Commander. “I’d like to express my sincere condolences to family and friends of the people aboard this vessel; I am confident this multi-agency search and rescue operation was conducted thoroughly, utilizing all available assets.”

Two HC-130 Hercules aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point launched from Oahu Nov. 27. They searched more than 115 total hours, covering an area more than 15,580 square miles.

A Navy C-130 aircrew from the Condors of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 64 based out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, found the missing mariner’s capsized vessel 12 miles southeast of Arno Atoll, Nov. 29.

The Hercules aircrew diverted to the position of the 14-foot capsized boat. The aircrew conducted a search for any signs of people in the water or debris. A Self-Locating Datum Marker Buoy was deployed from the aircraft. A SLDMB is a drifting surface buoy that measures environmental factors such as surface ocean currents. It is designed for deployment in search and rescue missions and is equipped with a Global Positioning Satellite sensor that transmits its location periodically to search and rescue coordinators.

Search and rescue coordinators notified the Royal Australian Navy adviser to divert the nearest surface assets to the position of the capsized vessel.

The patrol vessel Lomor was diverted from a trip to the northern islands and began searching for the missing group Nov. 26. The government’s airline also dispatched one of its two planes and began searching at first light Nov. 27.

One of the deceased mariners, a Republic of Marshall Island’s citizen was recovered by the RMI police patrol boat and transported to shore.

The body of the pregnant woman was located by the Hercules aircrew. An SLDMB was deployed to track the body’s position. An RMI patrol boat is attempting to relocate and identify the body.

Still missing are the United States citizen and RMI citizen.

“This was the most extensive search and rescue case the Coast Guard has worked in the Republic of Marshall Islands. It would not have been possible without the assistance from the Australian and RMI governments, and the United States Embassy in Majuro,” said Cmdr. Mark Morin, 14th Coast Guard District’s incident management branch chief. “Without their assistance we could not have coordinated all the assets required to affect this mission.”

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