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Smoke signal aids rescue of New Zealand sailor

Rescued NZ sailor

A grateful New Zealand sailor rescued in the South Pacific 16 months ago, has thanked those who saved him.

Philip van der Mespel met with Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel from No. 40 and No. 5 Squadrons to thank them.

He was saved from his sinking yacht, after the aircrew dropped a smoke signal to help the nearest vessel, MV Norfolk Guardian, locate him in the South Pacific in November 2017.

Philip van der Mespel, says, "When you are floating around in the sea hundreds of miles from anywhere, to see an aircraft come for your rescue is the most reassuring thing in the world."

“All I want to say is a big thank you to the NZDF – an excellent job done. I'd like to apologise that it has taken me so long to make the connection," the New Zealand Defence Force website reports.

Philip van der Mespel spent a night on a life raft after his yacht Waimanu sank in story seas, on his way home from Vanuatu, 166km east of Norfolk Island.

As the mast broke, a support brick tore a large hole in the deck and the boat began to take on water. After making three Mayday calls and firing three parachute flares, he abandoned ship and inflated the liferaft and sent out a distress signal.

The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre sent a search and rescue request to the NZDF about 7am. A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules found the yachtsman and contacted the MV Norfolk Guardian, to carry out the rescue.

Squadron Leader Brad Scott, the pilot of the Hercules, said meeting van der Mespel was a special experience for the crew. "It's very rare for the team to have any further contact with the various people we assist.

"We feel valued and rewarded just by completing the job. The largest satisfaction comes from helping those in need, particularly when someone's life is in danger."

The image shows Phil van der Mespel (fourth from left), wife Jenny, son Joel and his girlfriend Ataylia with personnel from №40 and №5 Squadrons who were involved in his rescue in the Pacific Ocean in November 2017, from left, Squadron Leader Brad Scott, Flight Lieutenant Matt West, Squadron Leader Rob Attrill, Sergeant Dan Ross-Murphy and Flight Lieutenant Siale McCormack.

Apr 09, 2019