Use of PLB ensures family returns safely to Pohnpei

July 29, 2022


SANTA RITA, Guam — Six residents of Pohnpei returned from a boating trip safely Friday, thanks to the efforts of a Pohnpei search and rescue liaison, the U.S. Coast Guard, and a personal locator beacon (PLB).

Responders located and towed the disabled vessel to safety following notification by the boaters using a PLB to mark and report their location, indicating a possible distress situation.

“This case illustrates not only the value of the PLB but also the importance of having it registered,” said Lt. Cmdr. Field Cassiano, command duty officer at U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “This is a real win and a textbook case for using a PLB. The distances involved in the Federated States of Micronesia are vast, and there are limited response resources. Using the PLB and the exact coordinates allowed us to vector responders directly and eliminate the need for an exhaustive search. Those hours saved can mean the difference between life and death. We appreciate the efforts of all our partners to get this family back safe.”

Just after 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the Joint Rescue Sub-Command (JSRC) Guam team received a 406MHz PLB distress alert from a contact located about 13 miles northwest of Pohnpei.

The beacon was registered to a local in Pohnpei. JRSC Guam personnel contacted the owner and learned he’d lent out his 23-foot white and black skiff with 40 horsepower motor to friends. The boaters reportedly departed Pohnpei around 3 p.m., bound for Pakin Atoll.

The JRSC Guam team immediately issued a SafetyNet broadcast and began initial investigations. They confirmed the vessel did not arrive as planned at Pakin Atoll through the vessel owner. JRSC Guam personnel notified the Pohnpei SAR liaison, who sought to respond with a 30-foot response boat. JRSC Guam also received aerial support from the U.S. Coast Guard Fourteenth District in the form of an HC-130 Hercules airplane and crew from Air Station Barbers Point, who would arrive on the scene by 4 p.m. Friday.

As crews prepared to deploy, the team at JSRC Guam continued to reach out to any partners who might be able to assist. The team sought to maximize the use of the PLB, which, once activated, has a battery life of around 24 hours.

On Friday, word came back around 7:30 a.m. from the Pohnpei SAR liaison, reporting the responders located the vessel, thanks to the coordinates provided by the PLB, and all six people were present and well. The boat was towed back to Pohnpei Harbor without incident by 10 a.m. The Hercules crew, en route, returned to Hawaii.

The U.S. Coast Guard encourages all boaters always to carry adequate supplies, multiple means of communication, an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or PLB, and to leave word with friends or family when headed out on the water.

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