TONGA POLICE IDENTIFY SKIPPER LOST AT SEA

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Safety line broke on British adventurer Parkinson

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga,Sept. 2, 2009) – THE skipper of the yacht "Santana" who fell overboard, and was lost when his safety line broke, in the mid-South Pacific on August 20, has been identified as a British national, David Michael Parkinson (64), Tonga police have confirmed.

His sole crew member, a New Zealander, Alexander MacDonald (65) from Christchurch, was rescued by Tongan authorities and brought to Nuku'alofa on Sunday August 23.

Tongan Police Commander Chris Kelley said that the survivor reported that Mr Parkinson who was wearing a life jacket, fell overboard while on watch at around 6:00 pm on Thursday, August 20, and was swept away from the boat when his safety-line broke.

Police inquiries established that the yacht "Santana" owned and skippered by Mr Parkinson left Rarotonga on August 6 bound for Nuku'alofa, and Mr MacDonald was invited to accompany him for the voyage.

"Mr MacDonald is not a crewman or sailor but found himself in a situation of man-overboard and he went about trying to get the captain back on board the yacht."

Cmdr Kelley said that during the rescue process the line attached to the captain broke and he was swept away from the boat. Mr MacDonald managed to turn the boat around and looked for Mr Parkinson but did not see any sign of him. Police understood the seas were moderate at the time.

"His seafaring skills are limited and he had difficulty over the next three and half days in controlling the vessel and attempting to seek assistance. And the yacht's beacon was finally set off on Sunday morning and the rescue effected."

The police received a call to an emergency beacon being activated just south of 'Eua. The Tonga Defence vessel Voea Savea responded and located a yacht with one person on board and towed it back to Nuku'alofa on Sunday afternoon.

Since then the police and Mr MacDonald went over his recollection of events, examining the yacht and carrying out routine investigation procedures.

"Any incident such as this always warrants close examination, which police did over the last week. Mr MacDonald was today allowed to leave Tonga," said Cmdr Kelly.

Cmdr Kelley also confirmed a second incident occurred on Saturday, August 29, when another emergency beacon went off in the Ha'apai area.

The Tonga Defence vessel responded after notification from the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in Wellington.

He said police located the beacon that was in the possession of some fisherman from Nomuka. The beacon had been activated and they couldn't switch it off.

"This is the second occasion this particular beacon has been activated and police are following up on its origin."

Cmdr Kelley said that August 2009 had been a difficult time for emergency services including the Tonga Defence Services and the RCC in Wellington.

"The incidents reflect the importance of safety at sea and the need to be responsible with the emergency equipment available. At the same time it is vital that police and emergency services respond and treat every beacon activation as genuine," he said

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