STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

'SOS' in the sand saves Pacific island mariners

The men were missing for several days when their "SOS" sign, written on the beach of a tiny Pacific island, was spotted by rescuers.

Posted: Aug 5, 2020 8:40 AM
Updated: Aug 5, 2020 8:40 AM

An "SOS" message written on the beach of a tiny Pacific island pointed rescuers to three missing mariners, United States and Australian authorities said Tuesday.

The three men had set out in a 23-foot (7 meter) boat last Thursday to make a 26-mile (42 kilometer) journey from Pulawat to Pulap atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia.

They went off course and ran out of fuel, landing on tiny, uninhabited Pikelot Island, 118 miles (190 kilometers) from their intended destination, according to US and Australian authorities.

The islands are about 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of Guam, and when the men didn't arrive in Pulap, a search was requested through the US Coast Guard's Joint Rescue Sub Center in Guam, which enlisted help from units in the region.

The three Micronesian men were first spotted by a US Air Force KC-135 tanker operating out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam after searching for three hours, according to a posting on the base's Facebook page.

"We were toward the end of our search pattern," the KC-135 pilot, Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, said in the post. "We turned to avoid some rain showers and that's when we looked down and saw an island, so we decide to check it out and that's when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach. From there we called in the Australian Navy because they had two helicopters nearby that could assist and land on the island."

A helicopter from the Australian amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra landed on the beach dropping off food and water for the stranded trio while Australian troops confirmed the men's identities and checked they had no major injuries.

Meanwhile, a US Coast Guard C-130 from Hawaii dropped a radio to the stranded men so they could communicate with a Micronesian patrol vessel dispatched from Yap.

A US Coast Guard statement said rescuers and the mariners kept their distance because of the coronavirus.

"After discussions between the responding partners it was decided the safest course of action for both the response agencies' crews and the mariners was to limit exposure to one another due to the COVID-19 Pandemic," a Coast Guard statement said.

The patrol vessel reached the men around 8 p.m. local time Monday evening, according to the Andersen AFB Facebook post.

"Partnerships," US Coast Guard Capt. Christopher Chase, commander of US Coast Guard Sector Guam, said the post. "This is what made this search and rescue case successful. Through coordination with multiple response organizations, we were able to save three members of our community and bring them back home to their families."

Capt. Terry Morrison, commander of the Canberra, praised his crew.

"I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfill our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world," he said.

West Lafayette
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 55°
Kokomo
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Rensselaer
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 48°
Fowler
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 48°
Williamsport
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 54°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 55°
Frankfort
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Delphi
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 50°
Monticello
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 50°
Logansport
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Scattered Showers & Storms Tonight
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 149166

Reported Deaths: 3960
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24564781
Lake13079350
St. Joseph8788157
Elkhart8371132
Allen7815221
Hamilton5923113
Vanderburgh553050
Tippecanoe350914
Monroe319438
Hendricks3140130
Johnson2972127
Porter293248
Clark282157
Delaware279674
Vigo248837
Madison226991
Cass221020
LaPorte213057
Warrick186563
Kosciusko173121
Floyd172766
Howard157466
Bartholomew138657
Dubois133724
Marshall130626
Henry121828
Boone118648
Grant118039
Wayne117123
Hancock114144
Noble111333
Jackson107412
Morgan91540
Dearborn90328
Daviess83732
Gibson82611
Clinton81316
Shelby78329
Lawrence77832
LaGrange76615
Harrison73324
Knox69610
Putnam69515
DeKalb68611
Posey6745
Steuben5888
Miami5765
Fayette57515
Montgomery56422
White56215
Jasper5464
Greene51237
Scott50613
Decatur49439
Adams4645
Whitley4316
Clay4276
Sullivan42412
Ripley4178
Wells4125
Orange38624
Wabash3859
Starke3847
Huntington3695
Spencer3686
Franklin36325
Jennings35913
Washington3512
Randolph3378
Fulton3292
Jefferson3285
Pike31612
Carroll30813
Perry28914
Jay2816
Fountain2743
Tipton26623
Parke2182
Newton21111
Vermillion2111
Rush2034
Owen1991
Martin1950
Blackford1903
Crawford1481
Pulaski1431
Brown1283
Ohio1187
Benton1070
Union1020
Switzerland840
Warren731
Unassigned0233

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events