Search Remains Unsuccessful

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has updated the public on the combined search and rescue efforts for the missing persons including the ABG Member for Nissan Constituency, who encountered a boat mishap on Saturday 17th of July.

The ABG’s Disaster Directorate had commissioned a search and rescue party since Tuesday 20th July , within the waters of Buka, Nissan, Pinipel, Anir, Tanga, Lambom, Carterets and Fead to locate the missing persons or any debris from the missing boat that could be used as leads to recovering the missing persons.

Upon request of the ABG Disaster Directorate, further search were commissioned using coordinates and drift modellings produced by the Joint Rescue Coordinating Center of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the PNG Maritime Rescue Coordinating Center. 

Platforms used in the search and rescue efforts include:

nAerial Search conducted on Tuesday 20th July by Cairns-based Joint Rescue Coordinating Centre (JRCC) Australian Maritime Safety Authority Aviation (craft code: RSCU330). 

The search was conducted for two hours between New Ireland and Buka waters based on the search grid coordinates provided by PNG Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre.  The search reported no sighting of persons overboard or on water within the search drifts modelling coordinates.

nOn Tuesday 20th, Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd July, Manolos Aviation was engaged by the Regional Member for Bougainville, Peter Tsiamalili Jnr, where they commissioned a helicopter based in Rabaul to assist in the search within the waters of New Britain enroute Buka. 

The helicopter searched waters of Nissan, Fead, Pinipel and Anir to no avail.  The aerial search reported no sightings of persons overboard, neither debris from the missing boat. 

nOn Thursday 22nd July; the National Disaster Centre commissioned another aerial search using King Air craft from the Tropical Airlines to search the waters of Milne Bay through to Buka using the New Britain and Bougainville Trench as per the drift modelling supplied by the JRCC; following the story of the sole survivor. 

Unfortunately, no sightings were recorded in this 4-hour aerial search. 

nAerial sightings of debris were ruled out by the families of the missing persons.  No sightings of persons overboard or on water was recorded in all search attempts.

nThe only cargo on board the mishap boat was picked up on Friday 23rd of July between Anir and Pinipel.  The betelnut bag was confirmed by relatives of the missing persons as content from the mishap boat. 

Other debris such as the pallet, tarpaulin, plastic bag sighted from the helicopter aerial search were all ruled out by relatives of the missing persons.

nEleven boats including MVs Teaturiki and Solwara Meri also searched the waters of Mortlock, Fead, Carterets, Nissan, Pinipel and Anir. 

All search reported neither sightings of debris from the mishap boat nor persons overboard or on water.

nSearch and rescue were conducted from Tuesday 20th to Saturday 24th July and all recorded no sightings of the missing persons and or debris that could ascertain appropriate course of action to determine the fate of the boat in question and those onboard at the time of the mishap.

Search sites and locations within the said waters were unsuccessful as neither personal belongings nor debris from the missing boat have been found within the specified search coordinates and through local knowledge.

The outcome of the emergency search and rescue commission into the mishap at sea about 200 to 300 meters from Nissan Island are as follows:

  • Only one survivor swam to safety at Pinipel Island between 9 and 10pm on Sunday 17th July.  The survivor was transported to Nissan District Health Centre and was medevacked to Buka General Hospital on the Manolos Aviation helicopter on Tuesday 20th July at 4pm.
  • No sightings of any other passengers overboard or in water after the mishap.
  • Only one betelnut bag was identified and confirmed by relatives as belonging to the mishap boat.
  • All other sightings were ruled out as not belonging to the missing boat.
  • Based on the sole survivor’s story; the boat sank abandoning passengers.
  • Based on experience and experiments, a person cannot survive more than 48 hours submerged in water.
  • Persons with medical conditions and disabilities cannot survive more than 48 hours.
  • Only persons with adverse training in harsh conditions can survive more than 48 to 72 hours.

As of Tuesday 27th July 2021, the search and rescue commission was scaled down for the following reasons:

  • That the search and rescue response have gone past the emergency search and rescue timeframe of 48 to 72 hours.  The Disaster Directorate together with the JRCC and the PNG National Maritime Authority has conducted emergency search and rescue for more than 72 hours.
  • Recovery and rehabilitation phase comes in after 72 hours to 7 days.
  • However, all the relevant search and rescue authorities are on alert to recommission the search party should there be sightings of missing persons in water or properties that could be from the mishap boat.

The Government again calls on the public to refrain from raising any speculation on the incident.

The Bougainville Disaster Directorate is the only authorized agency to release any information during this difficult time.

The office of the ABG president continue to remain optimistic and keep those missing and their families in prayers. 

Source: The Guardian

The Guardian