Orion finds boat after beacon activated

A searching Air Force Orion has found a fishing boat drifting southwest of Tonga after an emergency beacon was activated.

However, the boat had a flat battery and was not in distress, Jim McLean said from the National Rescue Co ordination Centre in Wellington.

The centre swung into action when a satellite picked up the emergency beacon from the boat about 260km south west of Tonga and the Orion took off from Whenuapai in Auckland at first light.

It found the fishing boat with nine people on board within minutes of arriving at the search site and talked to the boat's crew on a hand held radio.

Mr McLean said because of the flat battery the crew had been unable to start the boat's engine and had activated the distress beacon.

The beacon had been turned off at the request of the Orion crew and arrangements were being made with the boat's agents in Tonga to get a fresh battery or a towing vessel to the area.