NZDF searches for missing Kiribati Fishermen

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft leaving Base Auckland this morning has been sent to search for three missing Kiribati fishermen.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has launched a search and rescue operation for three Kiribati fishermen who have been missing in the Pacific Ocean for more than three days.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft tasked to conduct a fisheries patrol north of New Zealand had been reassigned to search for the fishermen following a request from the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand.

The men were last seen leaving on a five-metre boat at 6am on 14 October from Betio Island, the largest township of Kiribati’s capital city, South Tarawa.

“They were expected home on Saturday afternoon. A local patrol boat conducted a search but has not seen them,” Air Commodore Webb said.

The Orion is expected to reach the search area, estimated to encompass 30,000 square kilometres, about mid-afternoon.

The NZDF flew 234 hours on 19 search and rescue missions in New Zealand and the Pacific in 2016, up 59 per cent from the 147 flying hours recorded the previous year.