Marshallese fishermen lost at sea since Thursday

An aerial view of the southern part of Kwajalein Atoll, with the US Army's missile range headquarters island in the foreground, Ebeye Island three islands along the reef on the right side, and the pass where the Ebeye fishermen drifted out of the lagoon to the left just outside of the photo. Photo: US Army

Three Marshall Islands fishermen have not been seen since last Thursday, when their small outboard engine boat experienced engine problems and drifted out of Kwajalein Atoll’s south-western pass and into the ocean.

An emergency call from the 20-foot boat via high-frequency radio was received at 5:30pm Thursday and authorities said in less than an hour, two boats were dispatched as night was falling to search for the missing boat.

As the search boats got to the open ocean pass on the western side of Kwajalein’s lagoon, they reported the fishing boat was drifting and already six miles outside the pass with winds gusting between 25 and 35 miles per hour, according to Marshall Islands National Disaster Management Office Director Timmy Langrine.

They did not pursue the distressed vessel after sundown around 6:45pm.

Friday, two Marshall Islands patrol vessels searched without success in ocean waters to the west of Kwajalein Atoll.

Marshall Islands authorities called for search and rescue help from the US Coast Guard, which sent a C-130 aircraft from Honolulu that spent the day Sunday searching along with Marshall Islands patrol vessels.

“At approximately 1835 hours (Sunday), notifications were sent by Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center-Honolulu that the search and rescue mission was unsuccessful, no sighting of the missing boat via C130 aerial search,” said Langrine.

The Coast Guard did not continue the search on Monday, reportedly related to crew fatigue issues.

Marshall Islands patrol vessels continue to search in a widening arc beyond Kwajalein Monday.

Only two atolls are to the immediate west or northwest of Kwajalein: Lae and Ujae, both of which are inhabited.

Aside from Lae and Ujae, there is only open ocean to the west of Kwajalein for hundreds of miles until islands in

Pohnpei state of the Federated States of Micronesia, nearly 600 miles (965 kilometers) distant.

Langrine said while the three men, who live on Ebeye Island in Kwajalein Atoll, have a HF radio on board, he did not know if they have food and water.

The fishing boat has a single 40hp engine and is painted white on the outside hull and blue inside. It is named “Winnie Boat.”

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