15 Oct 2008

Rescure off Fiji says yachties lucky to survive

4:23 pm on 15 October 2008

The man who rescued three people off a reef near Viti Levu in Fiji says they were lucky he heard their mayday call.

The trio were sailing between Beqa and Vatulele Islands about ten kilometres south of Viti Levu when their yacht hit a reef and started to sink.

They were forced to cling to a dinghy overnight.

Maurice Conti, from California, heard the group's mayday call and realised no one was responding.

He contacted Fiji officials, the New Zealand High Commission, and began speaking to the New Zealand rescue coordination centre

"By 3am Timella had sunk, and we had lost radio contact with the crew, they were in their dinghy, with their liferaft, canister in the dinghy as well, it was clear Suva was not going to send a search and rescue team before daylight, and they were still having trouble finding fuel for the boat and crew."

He says by the time they arrived at the reef, around 5:30, there was no sign of them, but once he did spot them bobbing in the water, it was clear they needed to be pulled out quickly.