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Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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More Questions For Crikey's 'AussieP3Guy'

by Marg Hutton
15 August 2002

When Air Commodore Philip Byrne, the Commander of the P3 Orion Squadron, testified at the CMI Inquiry on the last day of the hearing, it appeared that the Labor senators were less than searching in their examination of his evidence - one having to leave before the end of proceedings in order to catch a plane. This was an important opportunity missed. These are a few of the questions that we would have liked to have seen pursued:

  • On the day that SIEVX sunk (19 October) it appears that two unusual things occurred in regard to aerial surveillance in the Charlie sector:

    1 - a second P3 flight was substituted for the routine Arunta helicopter flight

    2 - the second flight was cut short and failed to search in the crucial north-west sector due to bad weather.

    During the life of Operation Relex on how many occasions was Arunta's helicopter unavailable and a second P3 flight scheduled in its place?

    During the life of Operation Relex on how many occasions was the usual surveillance pattern cut short by bad weather in Charlie sector?

    During a peak surveillance time, such as 18-22 October last year, when there are reports of multiple SIEVs departing Indonesia, when an Orion made an 'unidentified radar contact' did it also observe and make note of the direction in which the vessel was heading?

    When an Orion made an 'unidentified radar contact' close to the border of the aerial surveillance zone (such as the contact at 0919 on 19 October) did it sometimes make follow up observations about such a vessel?

    When an unidentifed radar contact close to the northern border of the Charlie sector surveillance zone appeared to be heading south - would it ever happen that that vessel would be identified?

    When an Orion made an unidentified radar contact within the perimeter of the aerial surveillance zone and there were no other vessels observed in the immediate vicinity (such as the contact at 1930 on the 2nd flight of 19 October) how often would it fail to identify that vessel?

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