Happy end in search for missing alia

THE MOMENT OF RESCUE: MV Nafanua finds and tows the alia, Lady Edwina home to Apia. [Samoa Observer]

Three fishermen who were missing in the ocean for nine days are celebrating Fathers Day with their families. They owe their lives to a search and rescue operation that involved MV Nafanua and Samoa Air, costing hundreds of thousands of tala.

The story though could’ve easily been tragic. The crew of Lady Edwina; Fa’aveli Taumafai, of Vailele and Sala’ilua, Pita Alosio, of Falefa and Apia and Maeli Tasi, of Sinamoga and Vaimoso, set off on a routine fishing trip on Monday 30 July.

They were supposed to return on Thursday. When they hadn’t returned by Saturday 4 August, the vessel’s owner reported them missing to Maritime Police. MV Nafanua’s crew were recalled from leave and the ship sailed right away to commence the search.

Local fishing vessels in the area joined the search by Monday 6 August; the alia still hadn’t been sighted. So the Ministry of Police chartered a commercial aircraft from Samoa Air to join the search.

The New Zealand-based Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) was also contacted to activate a P3 Orion aircraft to assist. Fortunately, Lady Edwina was finally sighted on Tuesday 7 August. It was located 20 miles north of Savai’i and drifting away from the island in the windy conditions. MV Nafanua took the vessel under tow and they arrived in Apia on Wednesday.

The crew were dehydrated and tired but were healthy and were very grateful for being rescued. The Officer in Charge of the Maritime Police wing, Tagaolo Iosefatu Wright said he was grateful that the search was successful. But he was concerned about the absence of safety equipment on the boat.


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