The three men, 30, 20 and 20, departed Tarawa Friday in a 17-foot boat on a fishing trip when they encountered engine trouble about five miles from shore. The vessel was not equipped with oars or paddles and the men attempted to break off portions of the boat to paddle back to shore.
The men were reported missing Friday and local authorities from Tarawa began searching.
On Monday the U.S. Embassy in Fiji requested Coast Guard assistance with the search. Watchstanders at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu developed a search plan using the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System. An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Barbers Point was launched at 11:40 a.m. Monday to assist in the search. The aircrew travelled 2,100 miles from Oahu to the search area.
On Tuesday the Hercules crew deployed four self locating datum marker buoys to calculate drift and refine the search area.
The watch commander at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu extended the search area to account for update modeling data that resulted in the aircrew spotting a vessel matching the description of the missing boat Wednesday. The crew contacted search and rescue coordinators in Tarawa who were able to direct a good Samaritan vessel to the location and positively identify the missing men. They were rescued and transported back to Tarawa where they received a medical evaluation and were released. The men had no food and ran out of water the morning of their rescue.
The aircrew searched for approximately two days, covering an area approximately 2,800 square miles.
“Executing long range search and rescue is challenging” said Jennifer Conklin, command duty officer, at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu. “We rely on partnerships with search and rescue professional from other countries and advanced technology to save lives”.