26 Nov 2012

NZ plane returning without finding Kiribati fishermen

7:29 pm on 26 November 2012

An aerial search for three fishermen missing off the coast of Kiribati has wrapped up, without the men being found.

An Air Force P-3 Orion was dispatched from Auckland's Whenuapai airbase on Sunday to look for the men, who are five days overdue on a six-metre wooden boat with an outboard motor. They are aged 33, 41 and 30.

The New Zealand Search and Rescue Co-ordination Centre says the Orion searched an area of 21,000sq km on Sunday and a further 42,000sq km on Monday but found no sign of the trio.

A spokesperson says the conditions were ideal for searching, and the crew is confident that if the men were in the area they would have been found.

"They've covered that area very, very well and there's really nothing to provide any information to us that suggests that there are any other areas to search so based on that, it was decided to bring the Air Force Orion back to New Zealand," search and rescue co-ordinator Dave Wilson says.

A decision on the next stage of the search will be made by authorities in Kiribati and the rescue co-ordination centre in Fiji.