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Update- Searchers ashore to start search for wrecked sailors

by Sail-World Round-up on 19 Jun 2012
The search continues of the coastline of the volcanic Island of Late in Tonga for two missing sailors .. .

Finally, after delays caused by bureaucracy and three metre swells (see http://www.sail-world.com/Cruising/international/Sabbath-laws-and-who-will-pay-hampers-search-for-missing-sailors/98618!Sail-World_story), 16 searchers, locals familiar with the island terrain, have today been put ashore to make a land-based search of the island of Late, west of Vava’u, Tonga, for two sailors, an Australian, whose name has not been released and British Australian Ian Thompson, missing since their yacht, Navillus, was wrecked there last Thursday night.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Mike Roberts said a search of the island could take two days.

'The searchers have been landed ashore and they will camp overnight if necessary,' he said.

'In addition, we hope to have a vessel do a shoreline search around the island, using kayaks and dinghys, and hopefully also land people ashore. It is hoped that further attempts will be made to dive on the wreck of the more significant parts of Navillus which have already been located, to check for the presence of the yacht’s dinghy.'

The dinghy which was said to be on the boat has not been located, but the life raft was still among the wreckage and had not been activated.

Two full days of aerial and on-water searching had so far failed to locate the two Australian men, both in their sixties, who reported via a satellite phone call to a relative in Victoria, Australia, that they had run aground and their 50ft Bavaria yacht, Navillus, was breaking up.

An emergency locator beacon was activated at the same time, around 10.30pm on Thursday.

The yacht's wreckage was found the next day but extensive on-water searching following drift modelling undertaken by RCCNZ, as well as an aerial search of over 191 square nautical miles by an RNZAF P3 Orion failed to find the men.

The Police in Victoria are coordinating contact with the next of kin.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator John Dickson said it was important a comprehensive search of the island was done to rule out the possibility the men had made it ashore and were waiting for assistance.

'We want a grid-search of the island undertaken so we can state with absolute confidence that the island has been comprehensively covered.'

The Police in Victoria are coordinating contact with the next of kin. The name of the Australian has not been released, but the British Australian has been identified as South Australian resident Ian Thompson.

A friend of Mr Thompson's said that after migrating from the UK, he kept his British citizenship but took out Australian citizenship. He had been working at Port Adelaide, charged with guiding large ships to dock.

'We're hoping they've made it to shore and are waiting for rescuers,' said the friend. He added that he had spoken to Mr Thompson - whose family are all believed to be still in Britain - about a week before he left to buy the Navillus in the Caribbean.

His plan had been to sail it to the Whitsunday Island and enjoy a 'gentleman's life' in retirement.

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