Three crew members from a commercial cray-fishing boat were rescued off the Chatham Islands thanks in part to their GME Float-Free Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
The GME MT603FG float-free EPIRB was activated on Friday the 22nd of March after the vessel, the Mary Ellen II, was swamped by a large wave. At 8.20am the Rescue Coordination Centre in NZ received the distress beacon alert from the vicinity of Western Reef, 32km northwest of the Chatham Islands.
The coordination centre staff spoke with the registered contact for the beacon who was on land. He confirmed that there were three crew on board the Mary Ellen II – a 10m commercial cray-fishing boat.
Upon establishing the details of the crew, the RCC used the local Chatham Islands VHF to request help from nearby vessels. The fishing boat Falcon II was the first on the scene and picked up the stricken crew at 9.45am and delivered them safely to land where they were treated for hypothermia, cuts and bruises.
The GME MT603FG float-free EPIRB was essential in saving the lives of the three men as the skipper attempted to dive down into the boat and retrieve the beacon but was unable to reach it. However, the float-free housing automatically deployed allowing the beacon to rise to the surface, resulting in the successful rescue of all on board.
This incident comes shortly after the carriage of Float-Free EPIRBs was made mandatory for commercial fishing vessels between 7.5m and 24m that operate outside enclosed waters in New Zealand, on January 1 2019.