New Zealand Air Force officials have rescued a couple from a disabled yacht after they drifted off course south-west of Tonga.
52 year old Steve Jones, from England, and 43 year old Tania Davis from New Zealand were travelling on their yacht in the Pacific when their vessel was damaged, leaving them unable to steer the yacht. Both Jones and Davis were injured in the incident, which occurred in rough seas.
Poor weather conditions made it challenging to rescue the couple after they made a number of distress calls to New Zealand authorities. Finally the New Zealand Air Force made contact with a freighter vessel, the Chengtu, and directed the freighter to the couple’s coordinates. The crew were able to successfully rescue the injured man and woman.
According to Keith Allen, the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center’s search and rescue coordinator that was on duty at the time of the rescue, the crew of the Chengtu were able to rescue the couple using ropes and helicopter swings to fashion a harness. The crew then dragged the pair to safety.
The Chengtu was on its way to Los Angeles to Tonga when they received a request from the New Zealand Air Force P3-Orion to alter their course to conduct the rescue.
The yacht was travelling to the north island of New Zealand from Vava’u in Tonga on Wednesday when heavy seas caused the yacht to roll, injuring the two people on board. Although the passengers on board the yacht managed to right the vessel, the yacht sustained damage that allowed water into the hull and made the vessel inoperable. The couple managed to secure themselves in the cabin of the yacht where they made emergency distress calls and awaited their rescue.
According to Allen, the couple triggered an emergency response beacon which alerted the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center which in turn alerted the New Zealand Air Force P3-Orion. The P3-Orion was sent into the area and made radio contact with the couple.
The Chengtu has turned and started to make its way back to New Zealand. It is expected to meet a New Zealand navy ship, the Otago, in the Pacific. The Otago will take on the passengers and carry them back to New Zealand.
Initial reports say that the couple have minor head injuries and were scared and in shock when they were rescued. However, their injuries are not life threatening.