APNewsBreak: Navy Flyer Describes Spotting Island Castaways

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 5:30 AM

S. Navy crew had spotted their "help" sign three days after going lost at sea, a Navy officer in charge of the rescue said late Monday. Navy Lt.

It took several approaches and a smoke marker to convince three Pacific island castaways that a U. S. Navy crew had spotted their "help" sign three days after going lost at sea, a Navy officer in charge of the rescue said late Monday.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Harkins told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday night that the three men, whose tiny skiff capsized in the remote Pacific ocean days earlier, continued to frantically wave their orange life vests overhead as the sailors circled over in their aircraft.

"Initially they weren't so sure that we'd seen them," Harkins said. "We made an effort to alleviate their concerns."

The flight crew first rocked the aircraft'south wings, then made several low approaches before finally dropping a smoke marker in the water directly in front of the men.

"Eventually they actually started relaxing," Harkins said. "We've a photo of all three of them laying down, some on top of the 'help' sign."

The stranded men were reported lost latest Tuesday after a wave overtook their skiff as they travelled about one hundred forty miles from one Micronesian island to another, officials said.

The three spelled out the word "help" with palm fronds after they swam to the abandoned island when their boat capsized. "I've never seen anything love that, nor am I alert of anyone in our community seeing anything love that," Harkins said.

The Navy crew, however, noticed heat from a signal fire, which had already gone out, before they actually saw the "help" sign on the beach, Harkins said.

Petty Officer third Class Garrette Odor noticed the heat signal on his infrared camera, so the plane veered off and inspected the island. Petty officer second Class Justin Burns then saw the word "help" spelled out in palm fronds on the beach.

About fifteen seconds later, Harkins said, three men came running out of the jungle waving their orange life vests over their heads.

"Finding them on the island wasn't necessarily what we expected to happen," Harkins said of the mission. "We all stood up and gave each other high-fives."

The men'south families reported them lost Tuesday after they failed to indicate up at the Micronesian island of Weno, where they were traveling from their residence island, Pulap.

The U. S. Coast Guard notified the Navy, and Harkins' crew began their look for after a stop in Guam early Thursday.

"Fortunately for them, they were all wearing life jackets and were able to swim to the abandoned island," U. S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Melissa McKenzie said.

A local boat picked the men up and took them to back to their residence island, which was only about five miles far from where they were found, Harkins said.

Harkins said he didn't know the men'south identities or their condition, but executive told the WA Post they were not injured.

The Navy crew stayed overhead for about four hours and followed the local boat back to Pulap island, then made a final low pass and rocked their wings "to declare goodbye," Harkins said.

Two bulk carriers searched a combined seventeen hours for the men as portion of AMVER, a U. S. Coast Guard voluntary look for and rescue program. With AMVER, rescue coordinators can identify participating ships in the area of distress and ask them to help.

In the latest two weeks, fifteen people have been rescued in the Pacific with the assistance of ten AMVER vessels and six aircrews, the U. S. Coast Guard said.

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Chase Caleb Jones on Twitter: https://twitter. com/CalebAP

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