21 May 2021

Fiji Navy in search for five missing fishermen after 'violent incident'

2:52 pm on 21 May 2021

Fiji's navy is coordinating a search and rescue operation for five crew members of a fishing vessel who went overboard amid a reported "violent incident".

RFNS Kikau departing for the search area.

RFNS Kikau departing for the search area. Photo: Fiji Navy

On Wednesday the navy was alerted to the initial incident on Monday in which six people went missing in Fiji waters, after which a local aircraft from Life Flight Fiji was deployed to conduct an aerial search.

The Fijian patrol boat RFNS Kikau was also deployed and later joined by the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion in the search.

A spokesperson for the New Zealand Defence Force said the search was mounted after reports of "an alleged violent incident on board".

The Chinese-owned, Fiji-flagged tuna longliner FV TIRO II was located yesterday by the Orion approximately 90 nautical miles west of Fiji, with two crew members still onboard.

The Orion crew established radio contact with two people on board the FV TIRO II who reported that on Monday night, six crew members abandoned the vessel; one person was aboard a life-raft, with the other five entering the water without lifejackets.

They conducted a visual search and located the life-raft which was upturned and had one crew member on it.

The aircrew notified the Kikau, and dropped a survival pack - including a beacon, radio and food - to the person on the life-raft.

"The Orion remained in the vicinity of the life-raft as long as its fuel situation would allow, to assist Kikau with recovery of the individual, before returning to Whenuapai," the NZDF spokesperson said.

"That person was collected by the Kikau and returned to Fiji. The remaining five crew members from the fishing vessel were not located."

Team at RCC Fiji coordinating the search today.

Team at RCC Fiji coordinating the search today. Photo: Fiji Navy

The search and rescue operation is faced with deteriorating weather conditions and rough seas. Fiji's navy said the intention was to continue the search today.