Fishermen in miracle rescue named (+photos)

The two fishermen rescued yesterday after nearly 24 hours adrift in a tiny dinghy off the Hawke's Bay coast were named today by police.

Search co-ordinator Sergeant Luke Shadbolt said Itintarawa Baraniko, 38, and his nephew Tebea Baraniko, 21, were "bloody lucky" to be alive.

The drama began when the pair, originally from Kiribati but now living in the Hastings suburb of Flaxmere, set out at 7.30pm on Monday to check their set net at the mouth of the Tukituki river at Haumoana, 10km northeast of Hastings.

Their 2.5m dinghy capsized at the river mouth, and as they clung to the side of it they were pulled out of the river mouth into the Pacific Ocean.

They managed to get back into the boat, but had to repeat the process as the boat capsized again during the night.

The pair were left to huddle together, wet, throughout the cold and frosty night. Their oars had been lost and they had no engine, emergency equipment or lifejackets on board.

Police were alerted at about 12.30pm yesterday and began a full-scale search that included search and rescue, two Coastguard boats, a spotter plane and the Port of Napier pilot vessel.

Various other private fishing and commercial boats also joined in, and the pair were discovered by the container ship Sunny Napier at 4pm yesterday, 26km off the Hawke's Bay coast.

A Kiribati community spokeswoman, Betty Ho, said the two men were recovering well from hypothermia in Hawke's Bay Hospital, and hoped to go home later today.

"But fishing is off the list at the moment..."

Mr Shadbolt said the pair had been fortunate they were found.

"These guys are bloody lucky. It becomes a very big search area - you're talking hundreds of square nautical miles of ocean.

"Luckily they were right in the middle of the search area we had planned out, so had they not been spotted by the Sunny Napier, I'm confident we would have found them with the search techniques and planes and boats we were using."

Mr Shadbolt said rescues such as yesterday's were not uncommon in the Hawke's Bay.

"It'll happen again - we have one like that every year and generally it ends in fatalities. It's a bit refreshing to find someone alive."

- NZPA

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