4 Apr 2012

Local mariners integral to Micronesian search and rescue says Coastguard

2:15 pm on 4 April 2012

A United States Coastguard official says search and rescue operations such as that for a missing Palau plane always involve large numbers of local boat owners.

The Coastguard's Guam sector is still searching for survivors from a Cessna aircraft that was carrying two Palau police officers and their American pilot when it went missing on Sunday.

The Pacific Daily News reports that the plane was involved in the discovery of what's thought to have been an illegal Chinese fishing operation in which one fisherman was killed.

Lieutenant Richard Russell says the Guam Coastguard has one of agency's largest areas of search and rescue responsibility.

"It roughly mirrors the size of the continental United States and when we have these search and rescue cases out in these small islands you'll see everyone with a boat coming out to assist. It really becomes an operation at the national level and very deeply entwined in the communities of these islands."

Lieutenant Richard Russell says the searchers have covered almost 17,000 square kilometres of ocean since Monday and expect to cover several thousand more today.