SES Volunteers have joined the search for missing for a 16-year-old solo sailor missing in the southern Indian Ocean should be over her stricken boat by 1.30pm. A QANTAS airbus left Perth Airport with 11 trained SES air observers and a FESA officer on board took off just before 8am to join the search for solo teenage girl sailor Abby Sunderland, who is missing in mountainous seas in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
The airbus will search an area of ocean about 3700km west of Perth, but Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) signals should be able to pinpoint the search to within one square kilometre. The search, set up by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, was launched in response to the EPIRB signals that were manually activated by the teenage sailor.
The SES has been told that Miss Sunderland, who was attempting to circumnavigate the world, was speaking to her parents via satellite phone when they lost contact during a major storm front. Australian, US and French search and rescue authorities are coordinating several ships in the area but the nearest ship was more than 600km away early today.
The SES team will act as spotters as the airbus circles the area. The round trip could take 14 hours. The aircraft, which left from Perth International Airport, may have to land in another country to refuel before returning home.