NZ Orion finds missing Tongan fisherman

6:20PM Tuesday December 04, 2007

Searchers looking for the three-man crew of the fishing boat Kalepi near Tonga have found one of the men alive on a nearby island.

The two remaining crew have not been found.

A signal fire lit by the man helped the crew of an air force Orion which was searching in the area to locate him about 2.15pm today.

He was found on Hunga Haapi Island, near to the original position where the 6m wooden boat was found empty about 50 nautical miles (90km) north east of Nuku'alofa, Tonga, about 1pm.

The man has been dropped an emergency supply package, which contains a VHF radio and food and water.

Attempts were being made to contact him on the radio.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) launched the Orion this morning to search for the Kalepi, which left Nuku'alofa at 4pm on Thursday and was due back on Friday night.

The coastal trader Sarah Teresa has also now rendezvoused with the Kalepi and found no sign of the remaining crew.

Tongan police contacted RCCNZ for assistance in the search late yesterday.

The Orion arrived in the area about 11am today.