Missing pair spotted after lighting fire on beach

Taranga Island in the Chickens Islands group, where two missing boaties made it to shore after their boat struck trouble yesterday. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A pair of stricken boaties missing off the Northland coast last night were found after searchers in the air spotted a fire burning on the beach of an uninhabited island.

Details remain sketchy about how the duo’s boat became damaged off Mangawhai Heads yesterday but last night a major rescue was launched after the pair were reported overdue from a day out on the water.

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Rescue Co-ordination Centre of New Zealand senior search and rescue officer John Ashby said while a distress beacon was never sparked, maritime police asked for drift modelling to work out where the two boaties could possibly be.

They were told the pair had left Mangawhai and headed to the Hen and Chicken Islands, around 18km away.

He said they had been reported overdue from a day out on the water around 7.30pm.

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Ashby said while they were preparing the modelling the rescue centre was told the police’s Eagle helicopter had located the missing boaties on Taranga Beach on the Hen and Chicken Islands.

“By the time police found them they were on a beach and had a fire going,” said Ashby.

Police said last night a rescue operation was under way at 10pm.

The coastguard had sent out a rescue vessel from Marsden Cove in Whangārei to join the police boat.

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The Eagle helicopter, which had earlier found the pair, was keeping an eye on them until help arrived from the sea and the boaties were taken safely back to Mangawhai Heads.

It was understood neither of the boaties were injured in the ordeal.

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