Beacon saves lone yachtsman on atoll

By Stuart Dye

It looked like a scene from the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, but fortunately for a Canadian yachtie he did not have to wait years to be found.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion was on routine patrol southwest of Fiji when rescue officials in New Zealand picked up an emergency locator beacon.

The Orion headed 650km to the beacon and found David Seaton standing on tiny Nukulotu Islet.

His Vancouver-registered yacht Sweet Grace had run aground on a reef near Yacata Island, about 220km from Suva.

The lone yachtsman had abandoned ship and rowed to the atoll.

Air Force spokeswoman Squadron Leader Sue Connolly said the picture taken by the Orion looked like something from a movie.

"The photo is quite a classic. It's got that whole Tom Hanks picture."

Mr Seaton also signalled the aircraft with flares.

A radio was dropped to him.

"The sailor indicated that he was in good health, and had food and water," said Squadron Leader Connolly.

"We had really limited contact with him.

"We flew overhead, ascertained he was okay and then forwarded on the details."

The Orion passed the information to the Fiji Rescue Co-ordination Centre and a Fijian patrol boat was sent to pick up the sailor from the atoll.

Mr Seaton was due in Suva about midnight (NZ time).

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