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Six passengers aboard a canoe were located in a joint search and rescue mission June 25, 2018, in the Pacific Ocean Southwest of Guam. Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS), stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Six passengers aboard a canoe were located in a joint search and rescue mission June 25, 2018, in the Pacific Ocean Southwest of Guam. Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS), stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Six passengers aboard a canoe were located in a joint search and rescue mission June 25, 2018, in the Pacific Ocean Southwest of Guam. Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS), stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Six passengers aboard a canoe were located in a joint search and rescue mission June 25, 2018, in the Pacific Ocean Southwest of Guam. Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS), stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on a routine training mission May 4, 2018.

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on a routine training mission May 4, 2018. (Richard P. Ebensberger/U.S. Air Force photo)

The crew of a B-52 Stratofortress helped find six canoe paddlers during a search and rescue mission near Guam, according to Andersen Air Force Base’s 36th Wing.

The crew, from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron out of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., was on a routine flight during a deployment to Guam when they responded to a call from the Coast Guard June 25.

A traditional Pacific Island-style canoe carrying six passengers had gone missing after sailing from nearby Piagailoe Atoll on June 19. The journey from the atoll to Guam was only supposed to take a day — meaning the paddlers, who had minimal supplies had been missing for six days.

“This was a unique situation for us,” Capt. Sean Simpson, one of the bomber’s crew, said in an Air Force statement. “It’s not every day the B-52 gets called for a search and rescue.”

Finding the canoe wasn’t easy, since the airmen weren’t even sure what it looked like. However, an unusual, Disney-themed tip from the Coast Guard helped identify it.

“We asked for more details about the vessel,” Simpson said, “and the dispatcher told us, ‘It’s just like the boat from [the animated film] ‘Moana.’”

After searching for more than three hours, the crew spotted the canoe drifting in the open ocean — with all six passengers aboard.

“We spotted this vessel from about 19,000 feet,” 1st Lt. Jordan Allen said in the statement. “It’s really a small miracle that we were able to see it, because there were quite a bit of clouds.”

The airmen provided the Coast Guard with the canoe’s location and a civilian ship was able to contact the paddlers and steer them to shore.

“Search and rescue isn’t something people typically think of when they talk about the B-52, but our training and adaptability really paid off,” Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, the bomb squadron’s director of operations, said in the statement. “Being a part of this successful search and rescue operation speaks to the diversity of our skill set and shows our importance here in the Pacific.”

bouza.katrina@stripes.com

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