RNZAF Orion spots boat adrift off remote Tongan island

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion, similar to this one, found a a fishing boat adrift off a remote Tongan island.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion was back in Auckland after today finding a fishing boat adrift off a remote Tongan island since Friday.

The National Search and Rescue Co-ordination Centre (NRCC) dispatched the Orion last night after a satellite picked up a distress beacon off Kao island, 175km north of the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa at 6.10pm yesterday.

An Air New Zealand crew also picked up the beacon on a scheduled flight a short time later, NRCC spokesman Paul Harrison said today.

The Orion, which took off last night, spotted Lady Vina, with eight crew aboard, at 6.25am today.

It circled the stricken boat until about 10.20am when it had to return to Auckland before its fuel ran out.

It landed at Whenuapai base about 2.30pm.

Another fishing boat, Naia, sailed 60km to help Lady Vina, meeting up about 11.50am, Mr Harrison said.

Naia was today towing Lady Vina to Nukulofa, where they were expected before 10pm.

It was not known why Lady Vina was adrift, Mr Harrison said in a statement.