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Tonga: Australian Yacht Wrecked and Crew Missing - Search Suspended

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 21, 2012 01:09 PM

Published: 2012-06-21 13:09:50
Topics: Safety and Medical
Countries: Australia , New Zealand , Tonga

UPDATE 21 JUNE, 2012

RCCNZ Search and Rescue have today decided to suspend the search for missing sailors Ian Thompson and Erwin Claus. Mission Controller Neville Blakemore said the entire search process had been carefully reviewed over the past 24 hours to ensure all options had been exhausted.

"The decision to suspend a search is not one taken lightly," he said. "Should further information come to light about where the men may be, the search can be reactivated very quickly. At this stage, we believe all possible steps have been taken.

"This is obviously a very difficult time for the families involved and we extend our sympathies to them."


News sourced from TVNZ and Our thanks to the SSCA for bringing this news to noonsite's attention.

Searchers have combed the Tongan island of Late, west of Vava'u, with no sign of two missing sailors since their yacht was wrecked last Thursday night.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, which is co-ordinating the search, says searchers spent the night on the island after being successfully landed yesterday following two days of high seas. Nine searchers in three groups, searched the shoreline and climbed the mountain (a volcano) to investigate a finding of steam, possibly smoke, high up, on the other side of the volcano.

RCCNZ said the search team will now be debriefed before it conducts a review of the search operation in its entirety.

Aerial and on-water searching has failed to locate the two men, who have been named in the New Zealand media as Australians Ian Thompson and Erwin Claus (however one of the men is believed to be British holding Australian citizenship). Both are in their sixties.

The men reported via a satellite phone call to a relative in Victoria, Australia, that they had run aground and their 50 foot Bavaria yacht, Navillus, was breaking up. An emergency locator beacon was activated at the same time, around 10.30pm on Thursday 14 June 2012.

What was left of the yacht's wreckage was found the next day in 30 feet of water. Every possible chance of finding the missing men, no matter how unlikely, has been thoroughly investigated, with 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 Orion. A significant amount of debris and flotsam was found in a trail offshore and to the south of the wrecked yacht, which was recovered by rescue vessels.

RCCNZ said the police in Victoria are co-ordinating contact with the missing men's next of kin.