HMAS Canberra assists in search and rescue

Australian Government

Department of Defence

20200802 122021.t5f278155.m1200.xqOiZzHp0j6oz43VNHMAS Canberra and its embarked aviation assets assisted in locating the three-person crew of a skiff that had been missing for nearly three days in Micronesia.

The men were found on August 2 in good condition on tiny Pikelot Island, 190km west of where they had set off in their seven-metre vessel on July 30.

Their SOS message outlined on a beach was spotted from the air by Australian and US aircraft during the search.

The ADF had been asked for search-and-rescue support by the Rescue and Coordination Centre in Guam on the afternoon of August 1.

Canberra is part of Task Group 635.3 conducting a Regional Presence Deployment.

Canberra was returning to Australia while the rest of the task group continued on its way to participate in Exercise Rim of the Pacific off Hawaii.

The ship sailed overnight to reach the search area, and in cooperation with US aircraft operating out of Guam, located the men on the island.

Crew of 1st Aviation Regiment in an Army armed reconnaissance helicopter landed on the beach, delivered food and water, and confirmed the men’s identities and performed health checks.

Canberra's Commanding Officer Captain Terry Morrison said the response by the ship’s company to the operation was outstanding.

“The ship’s company responded to the call and had the ship quickly prepared to support the search and rescue,” Captain Morrison said.

“In particular, our embarked MRH90 helicopter from No. 808 Squadron and the four armed reconnaissance helicopters from 1st Aviation Regiment were instrumental in the morning search that helped locate the men and deliver supplies and confirm their welfare.

“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfil our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world.”

The missing vessel and crew were reportedly sailing from Pulawat to Pulap atolls, a 23-nautical-mile journey, when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel.

FSS Independance arrived on the scene late on 03 August and took over duties from HMAS Canberra. The crew from Independence launched their small boat and proceeded to the island to collect the three men as well as recover their skiff. With the three embarked safely and their skiff under tow Independance returned the men to their anxious families on  Pulap Island.

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