HONOLULU – Three men who had been missing for three days were rescued from a deserted Pacific island after a U.S. Navy plane spotted the word "help" spelled out in palm leaves on the beach, officials said Saturday.
The men's families reported them missing Tuesday after they failed to show up at the Micronesian island of Weno, U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Melissa McKenzie said.
The men were traveling in a skiff from another Micronesian island when a wave overtook them, she said.
"Fortunately for them, they were all wearing life jackets and were able to swim to the deserted island," McKenzie said.
The men were waving their orange life jackets when the Navy plane spotted them on the small island of Fanadik, several hundred miles north of Papua New Guinea. Two hours later, a small local boat picked them up and took them to a hospital.
McKenzie said she didn't have updated information on the men's condition Saturday.
Two bulk carriers searched a combined 17 hours for the men as part of AMVER, a U.S. Coast Guard voluntary search and rescue program. With AMVER, rescue coordinators can identify participating ships in the area of distress and ask them to help.
In the last two weeks, 15 people have been rescued in the Pacific with the help of 10 AMVER vessels and six aircrews, the U.S. Coast Guard said.