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Search underway for missing US teen sailor

9:12am AEST Friday 11 June 2010

US teenager Abby Sunderland, who is attempting to sail around the world solo, is believed to be in trouble off the West Australian coast after setting off two manually activated emergency distress beacons.

Abby Sunderland, 16, from California, was about half way through her round-the-world sail when she activated her emergency distress beacons about 3700km west-south-west of Perth.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has contracted a Qantas passenger jet to fly to the location and conduct a search.

The Qantas Airbus took off from Perth this morning at first light and has 11 trained SES air observers and a FESA officer on board.

Several ships are also on their way to the location.

Abby Sunderland's family stated that they were speaking to her by satellite phone at about 4am western US time (Thursday 9pm AEST) when the line cut out. Abby activated her emergency beacon shortly after.

While on the phone, Abby told her family that she was sailing in rough conditions with waves "20 to 25 feet" in height (6 to 7.5 metres) and had experienced several knockdowns.

"We were helping her troubleshoot her engine that she was trying to start to charge her systems. Satellite phone reception was patchy. She was able to get the water out of the engine and start her up," Abby's family wrote on her blog.

"We were waiting to hear back from her when American Search & Rescue authorities called to report having received a signal from her emergency beacon (EPIRB)."

"We were referred to Australian Search & Rescue and while we were on the phone with them another signal came in from her handheld PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)."

"Her water-activated EPIRB has not been activated so we are hopeful that the boat is still upright."

Australia's Jessica Watson, who completed a solo around-the-world sail last month, sent a message of support to Abby's family.

Australia Times


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