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RAAF AP-3C Orion returns from PNG search and rescue mission

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Senator The Hon. David Feeney Parliamentary Secretary for Defence

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence - RAAF AP-3C Orion returns from PNG search and rescue mission 5 February 2012

A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft returned to Darwin last night following its mission in support of Papua New Guinean search and rescue efforts after the sinking of the ferry MV Rabaul Queen.

Defence tasked an AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft in response to a request from the Australian Maritime Search Authority to support the search and rescue efforts on Thursday 2 February.

Senator David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, said that the Australian Defence Force would always be ready to assist Australia’s regional neighbours in times of emergency.

“Papua New Guinea is one of our closest friends in our region and I’m very pleased that the RAAF was able to respond so promptly to this situation,” he said. “The Australian government greatly regrets the loss of life following the sinking of the MV Rabaul Queen and will offer any assistance we can to Papua New Guinea.”

Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Ash Power, praised the Orion crews for their efforts.

“An AP-3C Orion and crew has been assisting with the search and rescue efforts conducting visual searches of the area where the MV Rabaul Queen Ferry sank.

“This task highlights the capacity of our Defence Force to react quickly to requests for assistance and to work in cooperation with, and in support of, other agencies on potential life-saving missions,” Lieutenant General Power said.

The AP-3C Orion crew located two survivors clinging to debris and directed vessels involved in the search to them.

The MV Rabaul Queen Ferry was reported to have sunk approximately nine nautical miles (approx. 16 km) off Finschhafen, while on a voyage from Kimbe to Lae, PNG. There are believed to have been 350 people on board, approximately 50 people have been rescued.

The search and rescue activity will continue tomorrow with civilian aircraft.

Media contact: Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999

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