Tonga wrecking: Search for crew from yacht is suspended

Navillus - wrecked on a reef on Late Island, Tonga, and her crew missing
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The search for two men missing after their yacht was wrecked last Thursday near the island of Late, west of Vava’u, Tonga, has been suspended.

An extensive air, sea, and land-based search coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has failed to locate the two Australian men, both in their sixties, who were named in the NZ media as Ian Thompson and Erwin Claus, both from Melbourne, Australia.

The men made a satellite phone call to a relative in Victoria, Australia, at around 10.30pm (NZ time) on Thursday, 14 June, reporting they had run aground and their 50ft Bavaria yacht, Navillus, was breaking up. An emergency locator beacon was activated at around the same time.

The yacht’s wreckage was found the next day and an extensive on-water search conducted by three local vessels, following drift modelling undertaken by the RCCNZ. An extensive aerial search by a RNZAF P3 Orion covered more than 191 square nautical miles.

A land search over two days on the island of Late also failed to find any sign of the men.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Controller Neville Blakemore said the entire search process had been carefully reviewed over the past 24 hours to ensure all options had been exhausted.

'The decision to suspend a search is not one taken lightly,' he said. 'Should further information come to light about where the men may be, the search can be reactivated very quickly. At this stage, we believe all possible steps have been taken.

'This is obviously a very difficult time for the families involved and we extend our sympathies to them.'