19 June 2010

Search for missing Australian sailor off Tonga coast concludes

Today the search and rescue, or SAR, mission for missing Leading Seaman Andrew Wakley, Royal Australian Navy, has been ceased. Tongan authorities formally concluded the SAR this evening after an intensive search by HMAS Warramunga, her Seahawk helicopter and local authorities failed to locate the missing sailor.

On Wednesday Wakley, who was on shore leave from HMAS Warramunga, went missing whilst swimming at Keleti Beach Resorts, which is on the western side of Tonga. He is presumed drowned.

HMAS Warramunga will now resume her passage to Hawaii, however, the Australian Maritime Surveillance Authority based in Tonga will continue to assist local authorities in a recovery effort. Commander Bruce Legge, the commanding officer of HMAS Warramunga, said in a press release that "the decision to leave Tonga is a most difficult one, as a member of our Navy family remains unaccounted for."

Wakley's family, via the Defence Department, issued this statement a few days ago.

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