Search and rescue incidents 2019-20

Find out about the search and rescue incidents we attended between July 2019 and June 2020

Ultralight aircraft crash—Leigh Creek

6 July 2019

The South Australian Police advised the AMSA Response Centre of a “000” call they received regarding an ultralight aircraft crash within the circuit area at Leigh Creek.

The concerned member of the public was a pilot and the husband of one of the occupants.

We tasked our Challenger 604 aircraft, and helicopter RSCU51 from Adelaide to the area.

A police ground party located the aircraft wreckage a short time later, unfortunately there were no survivors.

Aircraft crash VH-DJU—east of Dorrigo 

Dorrigo forest20 September 2019

A concerned member of the public contacted the AMSA Response Centre notifying an aircraft was overdue on a flight from Murwillumbah to Taree. The aircraft was due to arrive in Taree at approximately 7:30am.

Based on air traffic control reports, aircraft tracking and mobile phone data, we commenced searching west of Coffs Harbour. 

In addition to two local rotary assets, two of AMSA’s Challenger 604 aircraft were tasked to the area.

Helicopter Westpac 3, located a piece of debris in the tree tops just prior to last light, however poor weather conditions prevented an overnight ground party.

The following morning helicopter Westpac 4, confirmed the crash site in the same location as the earlier wreckage sighting.

Police ground parties eventually accessed the site, however there were no survivors.

Catamaran Sarabi—mast lostcatamaran Sarabi

15 November 2019

The AMSA Response Centre received a broken and garbled call from what was believed to be a vessel at sea indicating they had lost their rig.

We made enquires with agencies including AFP, ABF, Sydney Water Police, VIC Water Police, Telstra and Vodaphone call tracing services, in an attempt to link the callers number with a vessel or owners name. Telstra were able to provide a name which matched records held for an EPIRB registration to catamaran Sarabi.

Further enquiries revealed the vessel Sarabi was proceeding from Lord Howe Island to the Gold Coast.

AMSA’s Challenger 604 aircraft was tasked to the last known position and located the Sarabi dismasted.

The Challenger crew successfully dropped a satellite phone and established communication with the two persons onboard. The Sarabi had lost the mast but was otherwise not damaged and  had sufficient fuel to complete the intended voyage.

The vessel and crew made it safely back to the Gold Coast and were thankful for the support provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. 

SEND InReach alert—Tasmania 

6 December 2019

The AMSA Response Centre received advice of an SOS activation from an InReach device.

Investigations revealed the registered owner of the InReach device, was rendering assistance to a party of three people, suffering severe and life threatening hypothermia.

Tasmania Police accepted coordination and while a rescue party dispatched to the hut, we provided communication and first aid survival advice to the registered owner by phone.

Park rangers and Police arrived at the hut but were unable to walk the survivors out, they remained overnight and flew the survivors out by helicopter the following day.

Person overboard—SV Spiceperson overboard SV Spice

14 December 2019

On the afternoon of 14 December 2019, a crewman onboard the yacht Spice reported the 70 year old skipper missing, suspected to have fallen overboard. The vessel was anchored at Cato Reef, 190 nautical miles north-east of Bundaberg.

The AMSA Response Centre tasked our Challenger 604 aircraft to search a 44 square nautical mile search area.

The aircraft located a body matching the description of the missing person south of the reef however due to falling light, lack of fuel, and the difficulties with single handed sailing, the yacht remained at anchor awaiting assistance.

The Hervey Bay water police were requested to take overall incident coordination, and tasked the Yeppoon police vessel to the scene.

The AMSA Challenger returned to Cato Reef the following afternoon, but the missing man was not relocated.

In the early morning 16 December, the police vessel arrived on-scene and conducted a search of the area. Unfortunately there were no more sightings of the missing person, and search operations were suspended. 

SV Showtime—lost keel and capsizedcatamaran Showtime

5 January 2020

The AMSA Response Centre detected an EPIRB and two PLB's 13 nautical miles southeast of Bermagui, NSW.

The EPIRB was registered to yacht Showtime, which the owner confirmed was returning from Hobart with seven crew, following the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

At the same time, a mayday was received by Marine Rescue NSW from an unknown vessel in the South Coast area.

We issued a Broadcast to shipping, requested NSW Police a surface response, and tasked our Challenger 604 aircraft to respond. We also indentified the catamaran Watermark in the area, and diverted it to assist.

Our Challenger located the Showtime life raft on their electronic display and vectored the responding vessels in to rescue all seven crew.

The survivors were recovered by the police vessel and transported to Batemans Bay, they later confirmed the beacon had been activated when the yacht lost its keel and overturned.

Crash VH-TWQ—Casino

12 January 2020

The AMSA Response Centre received an overdue report for a Wittman Tailwind amateur built aircraft with two people on board. The aircraft was overdue on a flight from Casino NSW to Boonah QLD.

We commenced a search area in Tooloom National Park, using last tracking information from mobile phone, transponder and a navigation ipad but the afternoon and evening air search by helicopter and fixed wing aircraft was hindered by low cloud.

By mid-morning on day two, helicopter Westpac 3 from Lismore, located a wreckage, however poor weather prevented the crew from winching a paramedic to the crash site.

Weather improved in the afternoon and Westpac 3 was able to winch a paramedic to the crash site, unfortunately there were no survivors.

Crash VH-WNR—Moreton IslandMoreton Island crash

 22 January 2020

The AMSA Response Centre received advise from Brisbane Air Traffic Centre of a mayday call received from VH-WNR, thought to be in the vicinity of Tangalooma, Moreton Island.

Intelligence received via radar replay indicated the aircraft had conducted a rapid decent at low level north of Moreton Island. We issued an urgency broadcast to shipping, requesting all vessels in the area render assistance as required.

The AMSA Response Centre tasked our Challenger 604 aircraft and helicopters Rescue 500 and Lifesaver 46 for aerial search in addition to two Brisbane water police vessels, Redcliffe Coast Guard and Bribie Volunteer Marine Rescue; and five fishing trawlers who were operating in the area.

Approximately three hours after the crash, debris and aircraft parts were located floating 3 to 5 nautical miles south of the crash position.

The following day, three additional areas were searched by a total of ten aircraft and eight vessels. More aircraft parts were recovered but unfortunately no sightings of the two occupants were made.

Queensland police divers later recovered the wreckage however the two occupants were never located. 

Aircraft crash—fire bomber

23 January 2020

The NSW Rural Fire Service State Air Desk contacted the AMSA Response Centre with concern for an EC-130E Hercules. The aircraft with three crew on board was engaged in fire-fighting operations near Bredbo NSW.

Tracking information indicated a sudden loss of flight data and all attempts to gain communication with the aircraft were unsuccessful.

We commenced search and rescue operations involving two Australian Defence Force aircraft in addition to three civil helicopters, tasked by the Rural Fire Service. Two rescue helicopters were also tasked by NSW Ambulance.

Coordination was achieved by cooperation with all authorities involved, with a defence surveillance aircraft providing tactical on scene coordination. An RFS helicopter engaged in search activity was also able to live stream video from the search area.

The search was hampered by intense fire and smoke however, an RFS helicopter using forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera, located the crash site.

Ground response was initiated but it was also hindered by fire and smoke.

An emergency services advance party with several fire trucks and ambulances eventually reached the site. Unfortunately there were no survivors.

Mid-air collision—VH-JQF, PA44, and VH-AEM, BE95

19 February 2020mid-air collision

The AMSA Response Centre detected an unregistered ELT in the Mangalore area. Melbourne air traffic control confirmed they had concern for two aircraft in the Mangalore area.

Web-based tracking confirmed the two aircraft were co-located and at co-altitude just prior to the ELT detection. A distress phase was declared and we tasked helicopter, HEMS1, to the area.

Another helicopter operating in the area reported sighting a collision and provided crash site locations.

Local emergency vehicles and HEMS1 were tasked to the two sites. Unfortunately there were no survivors.

Medevac from lNG carrier Fukurokujumedvac from Fukurokuju

2 April 2020

The AMSA Response Centre was notified that the 293 metre LNG carrier LNG Fukurokuju enroute south through PNG's search and rescue region for Gladstone had a crew member onboard suffering a suspected stroke and possible bleeding on the brain.

Medical advice provided to AMSA from the TeleMedical Advice Service, was to land the crew member in PNG for treatment but the vessel decided to continue on to Australia.

The AMSA Response Centre tasked the Townsville based helicopter, Rescue 521 and AMSA’s Challenger 604 aircraft to conduct a medevac once the vessel was within range.

The Challenger provided top-cover while Rescue 521 successfully conducted a land-on medevac 40 nautical miles northeast of Willis Island. 

Catamaran Mia agroundcatamaran mia

 17 April 2020


The AMSA Response Centre received a beacon alert from catamaran Mia in the vicinity of Bougainville Reef, 115 nautical miles north-east of Cairns.

The vessel could not be contacted, however emergency contacts confirmed the vessel was on a voyage from Papua New Guinea to Cairns with two people on board.

We tasked our Challenger 604 aircraft and issued a broadcast to shipping. The cargo vessel Alani, and the research vessel Falkor diverted to assist.

The AMSA Challenger arrived overhead and dropped communications to the crew.

The vessel was semi-submerged and confirmed to be sinking after running aground on Bougainville Reef.

Helicopter RESCUE 510 was tasked out of Cairns and winched the two crew members to safety. 

Person overboard—yacht Solitaire person overboard

27 June 2020

The AMSA Response Centre detected an EPIRB registered to the yacht Suveron 17 nautical miles east of Bustard Head, Gladstone.

The registered beacon owner informed us he had sold the yacht and beacon, however, the vessel was safely anchored off Burnett Heads.

Further intelligence revealed the new owner of Suveron also owned a second yacht named Solitaire.

The AMSA Response Centre tasked Bundaberg rescue helicopter and AMSA’s Challenger 604 aircraft to the incident location.

A VHF Mayday was received from the yacht Solitaire reporting a person overboard.

We requested Gladstone water police provide a surface response, who tasked the Round Hill volunteer marine rescue vessel, and two police vessels.

During the initial search a blue kayak, associated with the person overboard, was located within the drifted search area. Two further search helicopters were tasked to assist with a search area of approximately 132 square nautical miles.

At last light, with no further sightings, on-scene weather conditions, and the specialist advice received regarding survivability, the aviation search operation was suspended.

Last updated: 21 May 2021