New Zealand Air Force find missing Fiji boat crew member, five still missing after 'horrific' alleged violent incident onboard

Six crew members abandoned the boat on Monday.
Six crew members abandoned the boat on Monday. Photo credit: Fiji Navy.

New Zealand's Air Force has found one of six missing members of a boat crew who on Monday night went overboard west of Fiji after a "horrific" alleged violent incident.

On Thursday, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion joined the search for a fishing vessel in Fijian waters after reports of an alleged violent incident onboard. 

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson told Newshub that the Orion crew eventually located the boat 90 nautical miles west of Fiji and established radio contact with two people onboard. 

The spokesperson said the crew reported that on Monday night, six crew members abandoned the vessel, with one person aboard a life-raft and the other five entering the water without lifejackets.

The Fiji Navy said on Thursday night the crew members "fell overboard".

The New Zealand aircrew located the life-raft upturned with one person on it, notified a Fijian patrol boat and dropped a survival pack - including a beacon, radio and food - to the person. The crew member was eventually collected by the boat and taken back to Fiji.

However, the remaining five crew members have not been found and the Fiji Navy says search efforts will be "further challenged by the deteriorating weather condition and rough seas". 

"Our focus is to save lives and ensure that the drifting vessel does not become a navigation hazard. The intention is to continue the search tomorrow.

"We acknowledge the support from New Zealand who promptly provided an aircraft to support this SAR operation."

According to FBC News, the boat's crew had a mix of local and foreign members. A source of the media outlet's described the alleged onboard incident as "horrific", prompting crew to jump overboard.

"The Navy Commander says it is still early to confirm that as thorough investigations need to be done first by relevant authorities to ascertain what transpired among the crew members," FBC News reports.