PHILIPPINE SEA (Dec. 22, 2012) South Korean container ship Han Splendor lists 25 degrees to its port side as crew members abandon the vessel. (Official U.S. Navy photo)

OKINAWA, Japan - The crew of a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion attached to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 located a group of distressed South Korean mariners in the Philippine Sea, Dec. 22, and directed a Hong Kong-flagged vessel to the scene to ensure the mariners' safety.

The U.S. 7th Fleet staff was notified of the South Korean vessel in distress approximately 350 nautical miles southwest of Okinawa and directed VP-45 to respond. The squadron, operating from Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, promptly launched an aircraft with search and rescue resources to the distressed vessel's last known position.

"We were told we were looking for a vessel in distress with an unknown number of people in a life raft," said Lt.j.g John Allen, a member of the crew.

The crew utilized all of the aircraft's capabilities including its radar and camera to locate the vessel in distress. "We were the first SAR asset on the scene," Allen said. "We found a South Korean container ship listing 25 degrees to the port side and a life raft floating next to it with 17 individuals in it. Nobody was injured."

The crew contacted a nearby Hong Kong flagged merchant vessel and vectored the vessel to the life raft. The merchant vessel crew was able to find the life raft and took all 17 survivors aboard.

"The success of the mission is a direct reflection on our squadron's training and mission readiness," Allen added.

Based in Jacksonville, Fla., the 'World Famous Pelicans' under the command of Cmdr. Mike Vitali, are currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of Commander Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force Seventh Fleet.