Search and rescue incidents 2014–15

Our search and rescue incidents from 2014–15.

In 2014–15, our joint aviation and maritime rescue coordination centre coordinated a total of 447 searches, which resulted in the rescue of 262 people across 7664 incidents. A representative sample of these incidents is below.

Maritime incidents

Mechanical failure—FV Ping Shin 101, Indian Ocean

7 July 2014

A Taiwanese coded distress beacon was detected in the far north-west corner of the Australian search and rescue region. The Taiwanese authorities confirmed the beacon was registered to fishing vessel Ping Shin 101, with 20 persons on board, but was unable to confirm the safety of the crew or vessel. A broadcast to shipping was issued and the MV Sam Tiger and MT Nordic Rio altered course to assist. The maritime rescue coordination centre Taipei advised that the FV Yu Pai Tsai was also en route.

On arrival at the Ping Shin 101’s position, the master of the MV Sam Tiger reported that the vessel had suffered mechanical failure and that the crew was abandoning the vessel into life rafts. The MV Sam Tiger  was able to safely recover all 20 crew members who were repatriated to Colombo, Sri Lanka on 7 July 2014 by the MV Sam Tiger.

Vessel breakdown—Yacht Coxinga, north-east of Darwin

13 July 2014

We detected the activation of a distress beacon registered to the Coxinga, a single handed yacht participating in the Darwin to Dili (Timor-Leste) yacht race. The vessel's tracking device indicated it was approximately 60 kilometres north-east of Darwin.

A six-seater Piper Saratoga aircraft operating in the area was diverted to conduct an initial search and reported the vessel upright but there was no sight of the single crew member. Helicopter Careflight 1 from Darwin was tasked and the Darwin Dornier was placed on standby.

Darwin Water Police was contacted and advised that the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard had received a distress call on VHF radio from Coxinga and that the Police vessel Beagle Bay was responding. 

Careflight 1 arrived on scene and confirmed that the skipper was aboard and uninjured. The vessel had suffered complete loss of steering and power failure. HMAS Albany, which had responded to the broadcast to shipping, arrived on scene and remained with the Coxinga until the arrival of the Police vessel Beagle Bay who towed the Coxinga back to Darwin.

Image of Yacht Coxinga

Vessel fire—Taiwanese FV GD Wang, Indian Ocean

12 August 2014

A Taiwanese-registered distress beacon was detected in the Indian Ocean bordering the Australian and Indonesian search and rescue regions. We coordinated the search in partnership with Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Mauritius by diverting MV High Pearl to search. MV High Pearl subsequently confirmed the Taiwanese fishing vessel GD Wang was on fire.

The crew of GD Wang had abandoned the vessel and all 10 people on board were located sitting on top of a rubber mattress. The crew reported that the fire had started following an explosion in the engine room. The crew members were recovered on board to the MV High Pearl and repatriated at the vessel’s next port of call in Durban, South Africa.

Image of GD Wang on fire

Vessel sinking—FV Osprey, Vernon Islands

12 August 2014

We detected a distress beacon registered to the 5.8-metre fishing vessel Osprey. We were advised by the beacon’s emergency contacts that there were two people on board the vessel fishing in the vicinity of the Vernon Islands, Northern Territory. We coordinated the search by tasking the 24-metre passenger ferry Freedom Sovereign, a Northern Territory Police vessel, the Darwin Dornier aircraft Rescue 431 and a Super Puma helicopter to the scene.

Upon arrival at the scene, Rescue 431 reported a semi-submerged vessel, but no signs of the vessel’s occupants. The Osprey’s two occupants were subsequently sighted on a nearby navigation mark. Both crew were recovered safely by a tender from the Freedom Sovereign and returned to Darwin.

Image of FV Osprey semi-submerged

Rescue of solo sailor—Yacht Enya II, Pacific Ocean

3 September 2014

We received a 406 MHz distress beacon detection and a SPOT tracking device alert from the yacht Enya II approximately 110 kilometres north of Lord Howe Island around 10am on 3 September 2014. The solo sailor was travelling between Queensland and New Zealand when his 10-metre yacht hit heavy seas and his yacht suffered rigging damage.

A broadcast to shipping was issued and a Customs and Border Protection Dash 8 surveillance aircraft diverted. Upon arriving on scene the Customs aircraft sighted the Enya II disabled in heavy seas but could not establish communications with the skipper who was visible on deck. We also tasked its Essendon-based dedicated search and rescue Dornier aircraft, a civil aircraft and a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-130J Hercules to assist. The Dornier aircraft was able to drop water and communications equipment to the yachtsman.

The Danish-flagged container ship Lars Maersk was in the area and responded to the broadcast offering to provide assistance to the stricken yacht. The weather on scene was extreme with 6-9 metre waves and 70 kilometre per hour winds. As the Lars Maersk was attempting to manoeuver alongside, the yachtsman decided that he would attempt to swim the remaining distance to the ship and jumped into the ocean just before night fall. Due to the conditions, he was unable to close the distance and instead found himself adrift in the ocean. The crew of the RAAF aircraft used night vision goggles to assist Lars Maersk in locating the yachtsman in the extreme weather conditions. The yachtsman, who was wearing an immersion suit, was recovered from the water by the Lars Maersk four hours later.

A debrief with the skipper of the Enya II revealed that the sailing vessel had sustained damage to the main sail and boom resulting in the vessel becoming non-manoeuvrable in extremely dangerous sea conditions. In addition, the yachtsman was unable to stem the flow of diesel fuel that was leaking heavily inside the yacht, making the deck extremely slippery and unstable. The yachtsman sighted the bravery of the Lars Maersk in their efforts to rescue him and also reflected on the need for those that venture to sea to have proper communications and emergency equipment to best ensure their survival if a mishap occurs.

Image of Enya II disabled in heavy seas

Vessel fire—Taiwanese fishing vessel, Indian Ocean

1 October 2014

We received multiple satellite detections from a Taiwanese coded distress beacon approximately 648 kilometres west of Carnarvon, Western Australia.

An urgency broadcast was issued and two merchant vessels were diverted towards the distress position as well as our Perth-based Dornier aircraft Rescue 481. Upon arriving at the scene, Rescue 481 sighted a vessel on fire with six people standing on the bow and two other foreign fishing vessels in the vicinity. A life raft was dropped from Rescue 481 to the people on board the burning vessel. The Taiwanese fishing vessel Bahari 699 and MV British Curlew arrived on scene and transferred all six people to the Bahari 699. No injuries or missing crewman were reported. Bahari 699 proceeded to Bali, Indonesia to land the survivors.

Image of Taiwanese fishing vessel and the MV British Curlew

Vessel breakdown—Catamaran Sirocco of Oz, Indian Ocean

10 October 2014

The owner of the catamaran Sirocco of Oz reported on 10 October that the vessel was experiencing engine trouble on a delivery voyage from Cocos Island to Western Australia. No assistance was requested at the time but concern was raised that the vessel may not be able to make it to the Australian mainland safely.

Early on the morning of 11 October, the delivery skipper decided to abandon the vessel due to progressive failure of the vessel's systems and the haul becoming compromised. We issued a distress relay broadcast to shipping and diverted the bulk carrier Alam Setia towards the catamaran's position. After steaming for eight hours the Alam Setia successfully rescued all three yachtsmen and the Sirocco of Oz was left abandoned and adrift. The Alam Setia continued on its passage to the Middle East where the Sirocco’s crew was disembarked in the United Arab Emirates on 25 October 2014.

Image of catamaran Sirocco of Oz

Rescue of passengers—Sailing vessel Fleur de Lys, south-east of Cooktown

19 October 2014

We responded to a distress beacon from yacht Fleur de Lys, with 2 people on board approximately 126 kilometres south-east of Cooktown, Queensland. Our Cairns-based Dornier aircraft Rescue 441, motor yacht Antipodean and Queensland Water Police vessel Perry Irwin were tasked to assist.

Rescue 441 located the distressed vessel and directed Antipodean to scene. The crews were rescued by the Antipodean who subsequently rendezvoused with the Police vessel Perry Irwin for transfer of the survivors to Cairns.

Image of yacht Fleur de Lys

Vessel capsize—Catamaran Wrangler, Fraser Island, Queensland

9 November 2014

We received a satellite detection of an unregistered Australian coded distress beacon approximately four kilometres north of Sandy Cape, Fraser Island. An airborne RAAF C130 Hercules transport aircraft was tasked to the position and sighted five people standing on the upturned hull of a 28-foot catamaran.

The Bundaberg-based helicopter Rescue 522 was tasked to the scene and winched all five people to safety before landing them at Orchid Beach, Fraser Island. The Hervey Bay Water Police vessel also responded and met the rescued party at Fraser Island. 

Image of upturned catamaran Wrangler

Rescue of kayaker—Tasman Odyssey, NSW coast

7 December 2014

A solo kayaker attempting an unassisted crossing of the Tasman Sea sent a distress notification via his satellite tracking device 56 kilometres north of Solitary Island on the NSW coast during the morning of Monday 7 December 2014. 

We contacted the shore-based support team who confirmed the kayaker was not declaring a distress but required assistance following a steering failure. We transferred coordination to NSW Water Police who tasked the Coffs Harbour-based Police vessel to assist the kayaker. Several hours later, a distress beacon registered to the kayak was detected and the support team advised that the kayak was sinking.

We assumed coordination following discussions with Sydney Water Police and issued a distress broadcast, tasked the Lismore rescue helicopter Lifesaver 4, our Essendon Dornier aircraft Rescue 431 and diverted the merchant vessel Santa Emilia to the beacon location. With assistance from the MV Santa Emilia, the Police vessel recovered the kayaker who was taken back to Coffs Harbour. The kayak and distress beacon could not be recovered in the prevailing conditions and were abandoned.

Image of kayak Tasman Odyssey

Yacht grounding—Australis II, Indonesia

1 January 2015

Just after midday on Thursday 1 January we detected a distress beacon in the Indonesian search and rescue region registered to the Australian yacht Australis II. Details of the activation were passed to our counterpart Indonesian national search and rescue agency (Basarnas) for coordination.

In addition to the detection of the distress beacon, we were contacted by the skipper of the Australis II who advised that the vessel had run aground on a reef and that the two people on board had abandoned the yacht and made their way ashore. Communication and updates from the survivors were maintained using satellite telephone text messages.

On the morning of 2 January, Basarnas advised that both survivors had been rescued by the MV Kaong Utara and transferred to Sukadana, Indonesia.

Image of Australis II crew

Overdue vessel—Banana boat, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

6 January 2015

On Tuesday 6 January, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Port Moresby requested our assistance in determining a search area for a 7-metre banana boat overdue by 10 days on a voyage from Manus Island to Madang. A broadcast to shipping was issued and our Cairns Dornier aircraft Rescue 441 was tasked to supplement a local search arranged by MRCC Port Moresby.

The following day MRCC Port Moresby advised that two survivors had swum ashore from the vessel near Garove Island, Bismarck Sea Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Dornier was tasked while en route to the search area and subsequently located the missing vessel. It dropped food, water and communications equipment to the passengers in the disabled vessel.

We tasked a tug from the port of Kimbe which located the vessel in severe weather conditions and successfully recovered the remaining nine people to Kimbe.

Medical evacuation—HMB Bark Endeavour, east of Jervis Bay

31 January 2015

We coordinated the medical evacuation of a 50-year-old female passenger from the HMB Endeavour approximately 63 kilometres east of Jervis Bay, New South Wales.

Rescue helicopter Lifesaver 3 from Moruya was tasked and successfully conducted the medical evacuation just before last light in poor weather conditions. The evacuation was difficult as the patient had to be lowered into the rescue boat and towed behind the HMB Endeavour to facilitate a safe hoist by helicopter.

The master of the HMB Endeavour subsequently rang us to thank the rescue operators for their efforts and highlighted the difficult conditions in which the medevac was undertaken.

Image on board HMB Endeavour

Overdue vessel—SV Moorings, Cape Town to Phuket

18 February 2015

The sailing vessel Moorings, a catamaran, departed Cape Town on 15 December 2014 on a delivery voyage to Phuket, Thailand on behalf of US-based company Tui Marine. Its crew comprised three South African men, aged 58, 59 and 20. On 12 February 2015, a family member of the skipper reported to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Cape Town that the vessel was overdue, after it failed to arrive in Thailand and the crew had not been heard from since 18 January 2015.

MRCC Cape Town contacted us on 12 February 2015 to advise that SV Moorings had not arrived in Phuket and sought any knowledge of the sailing vessel. We subsequently issued an all ships broadcast to shipping seeking any sighting reports. We assumed coordination of the incident on 16 February 2015 as the sailing vessel’s last known position was in the Australian search and rescue region.

Checks with the satellite phone provider found the satellite phone on board was last used on 18 January 2015, approximately 4055 kilometres west-north-west of Perth, Western Australia. SV Moorings reportedly had an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) on board and there had been no satellite detections of a distress signal from that beacon. Urgency broadcasts to shipping were also in place to cover the entire planned voyage route.

The period of 30 days between the last communication from the sailing vessel and the alerting of search and rescue authorities had resulted in significant challenges in responding to the incident. We undertook search planning which indicated the overall search area was greater than 6.5 million square kilometres and 2.5 million square kilometres for the most likely scenario of the vessel suffering a catastrophic incident around 18 January 2015. 

Coordination of the incident was transferred to MRCC Cape Town on 1 April with no sightings of the missing sailing vessel made. MRCC Cape Town formally suspended the incident on 15 May 2015. On 22 May 2015 the MV Hanjin Dallas sighted an upturned catamaran which is believed to be that of the SV Moorings, 1500 kilometres west of the last known position of the catamaran. 

Image of upturned catamaran (believed to be SV Moorings)

Vessel sinking—MV Reef Connections, Torres Strait

22 February 2015

The MV Reef Connections contacted us to advise that the vessel had suffered water ingress into the engine room and the crew and passengers were abandoning the vessel and transferring to Deliverance Island, the nearest point of safety. The vessel was on charter undertaking turtle research at Deliverance Island and had 12 people on board.

Thursday Island Water Police accepted coordination of the incident and tasked the Queensland Police Vessel Conroy to proceed to Deliverance Island to rescue the survivors. Once on scene, the Police vessel safely recovered the 12 people and returned them to Thursday Island. 

Defective rudder—Yacht Hydra, north-west of Nhulunbuy

12 March 2015

We coordinated the search and rescue for yacht Hydra approximately 216 kilometres north-west of Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory. The 12-metre yacht with one person on board issued a HF radio urgency (PAN PAN) broadcast requesting assistance following the loss of its rudder (and therefore unable to make its way). 

Our HF DSC radio station commenced radio schedules with the yacht and tasked the Cairns Dornier aircraft Rescue 431 to drop a satellite phone, distress beacon and drogue to assist in communicating with the yacht and to reduce the rate of drift. The Northern Territory Water Police confirmed that the commercial vessel Take Off, from Nhulunbuy, was en route to offer towage assistance. Hydra was subsequently assisted to Nhulunbuy where it safely berthed on 17 March.

Image of yacht Hydra

Vessel fire—Shofuku Maru No.78, north-west of Dampier

14 March 2015

A Japanese registered distress beacon was detected approximately 657 kilometres north-west of Dampier, Western Australia. The Japanese Coast Guard identified the vessel as the Shofuku Maru No.78 with 24 people on board. We issued an urgency broadcast and the Australian Defence Force was requested to provide a search aircraft.

The chemical tanker Axios responded to the broadcast and an airborne charter aircraft was diverted to the scene. The aircraft located the Shofuku Maru No. 78 on fire and reported that the crew had abandoned the vessel into a life raft. The broadcast was upgraded to distress and three additional merchant vessels were diverted, in addition to our Perth-based Dornier aircraft Rescue 461, a Royal Australian Air Force AP3C Orion long range maritime patrol aircraft and an airborne Virgin Airlines Boeing 737.

All 24 crew were recovered and no injuries reported. The Axios diverted to Port Hedland to land the survivors, who were transferred to shore by the support vessel Necede.

Image of fire on board Shofuku Maru No.78

Missing crew member—MV Sea Amity, south-east of Fraser Island

14 April 2015

We received advice from the MV Sea Amity’s Newcastle agent (Monson Agencies) on Tuesday 14 April that a member of the crew was missing. A ship-wide search had been completed without success and the MV Sea Amity was retracing its path to the last known sighting of the crewman.

We issued an urgency broadcast to shipping and tasked 6 helicopters and 3 aircraft into the search area approximately 50 kilometres south-east of Fraser Island. The Hervey Bay Water Police vessel SW Gill and the Tin Can Bay Marine Rescue vessel were also tasked into the search area. The missing crew member was not located and search and rescue operations were suspended at last light on 15 April.

Missing vessel—overdue banana boat, Papua New Guinea

20 April 2015

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Port Moresby sought drift modelling and broadcast to shipping assistance from us to locate an overdue 7-metre banana boat with 4 people on board missing since the 16 April. The vessel had departed Manu Manu Village, approximately 60 kilometres north-west of Port Moresby for a nearby fishing ground 2 kilometres offshore.

At the request of MRCC Port Moresby, we tasked an Australian Defence Force P3C Orion long range maritime patrol aircraft, our Cairns Dornier aircraft and a Papua New Guinea-based Hevilift helicopter. Search operations continued for a further three days without success, at which time MRCC Port Moresby suspended the search.

Vessel capsize—Seascape cruiser, Lady Musgrave Island

22 April 2015

A distress beacon, registered to a 6.2 metre runabout with two people on board, was detected in the vicinity of Lady Musgrave Island, Queensland.

We coordinated the rescue by tasking the Rockhampton-based rescue helicopter Rescue 300 to respond. A commercial fishing vessel FV Maddison was also diverted to the scene. The helicopter homed the beacon signal to an upturned hull and winched two people from the water. The survivors were taken to Rockhampton hospital with mild hypothermia.

Image of survivors on the upturned hull of seascape cruiser, Lady Musgrave Island

Yacht grounding—Vector, Miles Island, WA

3 May 2015

We received a distress beacon detection registered to yacht Vector in the vicinity of Miles Island, Western Australian on 3 May 2015. 

Enquiries revealed that one person was on board and the yacht was disabled and drifting in poor weather. We tasked its Perth-based Dornier aircraft Rescue 481 and a Bell 206 helicopter from Esperance to the scene.

The yacht subsequently ran aground on a large rock to the north of Miles Island. Rescue 481 arrived on scene and remained overhead while the Bell 206 was able to land on the rocks and rescue the yachtsman. The yachtsman was taken to Esperance and no further assistance was required.

Image of yacht Vector grounded on rocks

Rescue of passengers—Yacht James Bruce Macky

9 May 2015

We successfully rescued four people on board a yacht on a voyage from Adelaide to Portland. We detected a distress beacon registered to yacht James Bruce Macky on 9 May 2015. The position indicated that they were just offshore in a remote part of the South Australian coastline near Robe.

The poor weather conditions initially prevented the tasking of a rescue helicopter or launching of a local Sea Rescue unit. We worked in collaboration with South Australia (SA) Police and received assistance from SA State Emergency Services volunteers to conduct a coastline search. Ground search teams combing the beach north of Bridgeport found an inflated life raft and, soon after, all four survivors in good health. The yacht had sunk after striking a reef.

Overdue vessel—Wahoo, Torres Strait

15 June 2015

Queensland Police advised us on 15 June 2015 that they were making enquiries into an overdue small craft with 3 people on board. The vessel, which had departed Saibai Island at 3 pm (local) the previous day, had failed to arrive at Moa Island as expected. We assumed coordination for the air search and tasked the Cairns Dornier aircraft Rescue 441 and the Horn Island rescue helicopter R700 to conduct search operations of an area covering 7546 square kilometres.

On the following day, we tasked 5 additional aircraft to the wider search area covering more than 15,435 square kilometres. The air search was supported by two police vessels, one volunteer vessel, and three Torres Strait ranger program vessels. Rescue 101, a RAAF P-3C long range maritime patrol aircraft, located the missing vessel and crew within the search area, some 170 kilometres from their departure point on Saibai Island. The Queensland Police vessel Brett T Handran subsequently towed the broken down vessel to Kubin on Moa Island.

Image of vessel Wahoo with three people on board

Rescue of solo sailor—Seafox II, north-west of Geraldton

27 June 2015

We successfully coordinated the rescue of a solo sailor from yacht Seafox II during the evening of Saturday 27 June 2015.   

The yacht, with one man on board, was taking on water 240 kilometres north-west of Geraldton, Western Australia.

We tasked its Perth-based Dornier aircraft Rescue 481, merchant vessel Antwerp Bridge and a workboat Loligo to the Seafox’s position.

Kordia Australia, our contracted HF radio service provider remained in radio communications with the Seafox II until Rescue 481 arrived. The occupant of the Seafox II was subsequently rescued safely by the Loligo and taken to Geraldton.

Image of Seafox II alongside the Loligo

Aviation and land-based incidents

Aircraft crash—Bell 206 helicopter, Cooktown

7 October 2014

We were advised by a helicopter company that one of their helicopters crashed around 1pm on Tuesday 7 October 2014 at Mt Cook near Cooktown, Queensland. Six people were involved in the incident on board the Bell 206 helicopter and had sustained various degrees of injuries. The crew managed to notify the company using a mobile phone.

We tasked a Hevilift B212 helicopter that was about to land at Cooktown and diverted it to confirm the crash position. The Cairns-based Dornier aircraft and Rescue 521 helicopter from Townsville were also tasked to assist.

A ground response team comprising of Queensland Police, the Queensland Ambulance Service, Rural Fire Brigade and National Park personnel made their way overland through dense vegetation and steep terrain to locate the helicopter and reach the six people in distress. Five people were led out and the one severely injured person was winched by the rescue helicopter and taken to Townsville Hospital.

Image of helicopter crash site

Aircraft crash—Cessna 206, New South Wales

16 October 2014

Melbourne air traffic service reported a Cessna 206 had declared a mayday with engine failure eight kilometres north-west of Wombeyan Caves, New South Wales. We coordinated the search by tasking helicopter Rescue 26, Kingair Ambulance 262 and its Essendon-based Dornier Rescue 431. There were no sightings during the initial search near Wombeyan Caves.

After receiving text messages from us, the pilot telephoned to advise he had survived the crash but was lost in a heavily timbered area. A GPS position was obtained from the pilot’s mobile phone indicating he was 75 kilometres south-east of Wombeyan Caves. Helicopter Rescue 26 located the pilot and transferred him to Wollongong hospital for treatment for a head wound.

Image of aircraft crash site

SPOT activation—Rescue of motorcyclist, Boulia, Queensland

25 October 2014

We were advised of a SPOT tracker activation north of Boulia, Queensland. We were unable to establish contact with the registered owner who was understood to be riding his motorcycle in the area.

We assumed coordination due to closeness of last light and tasked helicopter Rescue 400 from Mount Isa to the search. The helicopter located the solo motorcycle rider who had suffered multiple fractures from a crash. The victim was transported to a local hospital for further treatment and coordination was transferred to Queensland Police.

Image of rescue helicopter

Aircraft crash—Robinson R44 helicopter, northern Queensland

22 November 2014

During the morning of Saturday 22 November 2014, Cairns Water Police contacted us regarding a Robinson R44 helicopter with two people on board that had been reported missing on a flight from Archer River, northern Queensland to Cairns.

We assumed coordination and conducted three searches during the day with several aircraft. Our information gathering processes ascertained that the helicopter was known to have mechanical issues having been recently rebuilt after a crash the previous year. Information supplied by the Archer River Roadhouse proprietor indicated that the pilot had intended to return on a direct path from Archer River to Cairns, with a possible refueling stop at Coen. Based on this information the initial AMSA search was focused on the area between Archer River and Coen.

A Qantas aircraft en route to Horn Island detected a 121.5 MHz transmission 35 kilometres off the planned Archer River to Cairns flight path. Our Dornier aircraft Rescue 481 was diverted and after homing to the beacon signal located the burnt out wreckage of the helicopter. Two survivors were sighted nearby waving. The Cairns-based rescue helicopter Rescue 510 transferred the two occupants of the helicopter to Cairns.

Image of helicopter crash site

Aircraft crash—Air Asia AWQ8501

28 December 2014

Air Asia fight AWQ8501 was reported lost over the Sumatra Sea north of the Indonesian mainland on the morning of Sunday 28 December. Our initial involvement related to checks of the Cospas Sarsat satellite system for the aircraft’s registered distress beacon and assisting Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC) with the tasking of two Royal Australian Air Force AP3C Orion long range maritime patrol aircraft operating from Butterworth, Malaysia.

At the request of HQJOC, our Search and Rescue capability officer attached to the Indonesian national search and rescue agency (Basarnas) formed part of the Australian Embassy Jakarta support team and assisted with communications to and from Basarnas.  

Aircraft crash—Cessna 172, Storm Bay, Tasmania

29 December 2014

On 29 December, yacht Mistraal participating in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race 2014 witnessed a plane conducting photography runs of race participants crash in to the ocean in Storm Bay, Tasmania.

We tasked the Tasmanian Police rescue helicopters Polair 71 and Polair 73, with Tasmania Police tasking the PV Van Diemen to respond. Yacht Mistraal arrived on scene shortly after the crash to see the tail of the aircraft disappear below the water. Two pieces of debris were recovered from the crash site but there were no signs of survivors.

We suspended the search on the morning of 30 December. Tasmania Police continued with salvage and recovery operations using aircraft and surface assets. The aircraft was located during the recovery operation, both occupants were deceased.

Image of aircraft winched from the water

Personal Locator Beacon activation—4WD, Simpson Desert

6 January 2015

During the afternoon of Friday 6 January, we detected a registered personal locator beacon (PLB) in a position north-east of Alice Springs along the Plenty Highway, Simpson Desert.

We tasked the Mount Isa rescue helicopter Rescue 400 and located a bogged four wheel drive vehicle on scene.

Upon landing, the helicopter confirmed the occupant of the vehicle was okay and, with the assistance of a nearby station, the owner of the vehicle was recovered to safe ground.

Image of bogged 4WD as seen from the rescue helicopter

Aircraft crash—Donnington Airpark

10 February 2015

We were contacted by Recreational Aviation Australia and Queensland Police who advised that two ultralight aircraft had departed together from Donnington Airpark on Tuesday 10 February and had failed to return.

We tasked its Cairns-based Dornier aircraft Rescue 431 and helicopter Rescue 521 to conduct night searches of the planned route and surrounding areas with no result.

Search efforts commenced at first light the following day and located both aircraft crashed approximately seven kilometres south of Donnington Airpark west of the Flinders Highway. Both pilots were deceased.

Image of crashed ultralight aircraft

Overdue aircraft—Jabiru, west of Gladstone

18 April 2015

A Jabiru light aircraft with one person on board was reported by friends as overdue on a flight from Gympie to Balantree (a property west of Gladstone) on Saturday 18 April 2015.

We conducted extensive ground and air search operations for two and half days before being alerted by a member of the public that debris consistent with an aircraft had been located on their property. Further investigation by a rescue helicopter and police confirmed the debris was from the missing aircraft. The crash was determined to have been non-survivable and coordination was transferred to Queensland Police for their investigation. Ground police crews, one aircraft and 20 helicopters were tasked by AMSA in the search. A two person forward field base was deployed by us to Gympie airfield.

Image of search aircraft, Gympie airfield

Aircraft crash—Lightwing, North Stradbroke Island

7 May 2015

On 9 May 2015, a concerned member of the public advised various Queensland emergency service agencies that an aircraft may have crashed near Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island. We assumed coordination and tasked helicopter Rescue 500, helicopter Rescue 511 and two civil aircraft to conduct the search. Shortly after arriving on scene, Rescue 500 located aircraft wreckage and a deceased person close to the shoreline.

Intelligence from subsequent enquiries confirmed the crashed aircraft was a recreational two-seat Australian lightwing, operating from Dunwich Airfield on North Stradbroke Island. The pilot was confirmed as being the only person on the aircraft. The incident was transferred to Queensland Police for investigation.

Image of crashed Australian Lightwing aircraft

Rescue of bushwalkers—Larapinta Trail, Northern Territory

26 May 2015

During the period 26 May to 8 June we responded to 3 distress beacon activations from bushwalkers on the Larapinta Trail (100 kilometres west of Alice Springs).

On 26 May a helicopter with a doctor was tasked from Alice Springs and located a group of people at Hugh Gorge. They were suffering from dehydration and were recovered back to Alice Springs.

On 30 May two walkers were located at Ghost Gum Flat campsite. The male walker had suffered severe cuts to two of his fingers in a fall the previous day.

On 8 June we tasked local rangers and a B206 Long Ranger helicopter from Alice Springs to respond to a patient with a broken leg.

Aircraft crash—Jabiru, Jindabyne, New South Wales

10 June 2015

A registered Jabiru aircraft with a trainee pilot on board was reported overdue by the chief flying instructor of Alpine Aviation based in Jindabyne, NSW on the afternoon of 10 June 2015.

We tasked the Essendon Dornier aircraft Rescue 431 and the Canberra-based rescue helicopter, Southcare 1 to search an area between Jindabyne and Dalgety (18 kilometres east of Jindabyne).

Information received later that afternoon from Alpine Aviation indicated that the aircraft had conducted an emergency landing north of Khancoban (60 kilometres north-west of Jindabyne) and the pilot was uninjured. Search aircraft were stood down and the local police were dispatched to confirm the pilot's safety. The aircraft suffered damage after striking a fence during the emergency landing.

Image of crashed Jabiru aircraft

Related information

Last updated: 

Monday 26 October 2020