Daily US Times: The United States and Australian authorities said Tuesday that an “SOS” message written on the beach of a tiny Pacific island pointed rescuers to three missing mariners.
Last Thursday, the three men had set out in a 23-foot (7 meter) boat to make a 26-mile (42 kilometer) journey from Pulawat to Pulap atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia.
According to US and Australian authorities, they went off course and ran out of fuel, landing on tiny, uninhabited Pikelot Island, 190 kilometers (118 miles) from their intended destination.
The islands are about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Guam, and when the sailors didn’t arrive in Pulap, a search was requested through the US Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Sub Center in Guam, which enlisted help from units in the region.
A US Air Force KC-135 tanker operating out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam first detected the three Micronesian men after searching for three hours, a post of the base’s Facebook page shows.
In the post, the KC-135 pilot, Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, said: “We were toward the end of our search pattern. We turned to avoid some rain showers and that’s when we looked down and saw an island, so we decide to check it out and that’s when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach.”
”From there we called in the Australian Navy because they had two helicopters nearby that could assist and land on the island,” the post said.
A helicopter from the Australian amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra reached on the beach dropping off water and food for the stranded men while Australian troops checked they had no major injuries and confirmed the men’s identities.
Meanwhile, a US Coast Guard C-130 from Hawaii dropped a radio to the mariners so they could communicate with a Micronesian patrol vessel dispatched from Yap.
A US Coast Guard statement said the mariners and rescuers kept their distance because of the coronavirus.
A Coast Guard statement said: “After discussions between the responding partners it was decided the safest course of action for both the response agencies’ crews and the mariners was to limit exposure to one another due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
According to the Andersen AFB Facebook post, the patrol vessel reached the men around 8 p.m. local time Monday evening, according to the Andersen AFB Facebook post.
US Coast Guard Capt. Christopher Chase, commander of US Coast Guard Sector Guam, said the post: ”Partnerships, this is what made this search and rescue case successful. Through coordination with multiple response organizations, we were able to save three members of our community and bring them back home to their families.”