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APNewsBreak: Navy flyer describes spotting island castaways

  • This photo provided by U.S. Navy released Thursday, April 7, 2016, shows a man waving a life jacket as a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft discovers them on the uninhabited island of Fanadik. The three men were back to safety on Thursday, three days after going missing. Officials say three men who had been missing for three days were rescued from a deserted Pacific island after a U.S. Navy plane spotted a gigantic "help" spelled out with palm leaves. (Ensign John Knight/U.S. Navy via AP)

    This photo provided by U.S. Navy released Thursday, April 7, 2016, shows a man waving a life jacket as a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft discovers them on the uninhabited island of Fanadik. The three men were back to safety on Thursday, three days after going missing. Officials say three men who had been missing for three days were rescued from a deserted Pacific island after a U.S. Navy plane spotted a gigantic "help" spelled out with palm leaves. (Ensign John Knight/U.S. Navy via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This photo provided by U.S. Navy released Thursday, April 7, 2016, shows a man waving a life jacket and two others looking on as a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft discovers them on the uninhabited island of Fanadik. The three men were back to safety on Thursday, three days after going missing. Officials say three men who had been missing for three days were rescued from a deserted Pacific island after a U.S. Navy plane spotted a gigantic "help" spelled out with palm leaves. (Ensign John Knight/U.S. Navy via AP)

    This photo provided by U.S. Navy released Thursday, April 7, 2016, shows a man waving a life jacket and two others looking on as a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft discovers them on the uninhabited island of Fanadik. The three men were back to safety on Thursday, three days after going missing. Officials say three men who had been missing for three days were rescued from a deserted Pacific island after a U.S. Navy plane spotted a gigantic "help" spelled out with palm leaves. (Ensign John Knight/U.S. Navy via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This photo provided by U.S. Navy released April 7, 2016 shows two men waving life jackets and look on as a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft discovers them on the uninhabited island of Fanadik.   The three men were back to safety on Thursday, April 7, 2016, three days after going missing.   (U.S. Navy/Ensign John Knight via AP)

    This photo provided by U.S. Navy released April 7, 2016 shows two men waving life jackets and look on as a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft discovers them on the uninhabited island of Fanadik. The three men were back to safety on Thursday, April 7, 2016, three days after going missing. (U.S. Navy/Ensign John Knight via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A Navy officer who helped rescue three men from a remote Pacific island says it took several approaches and a smoke marker to convince the castaways that their "help" signal had been spotted and they would be saved.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Harkins told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday night that the three men, whose small skiff capsized off an island in Micronesia days earlier, continued to frantically wave their orange life vests overhead as the sailors circled above in their aircraft.

The flight crew first rocked the aircraft's wings, then made several low approaches before finally dropping a smoke marker in front of the men.

Harkins says the stranded men eventually understood their ordeal was over and rested on the palm fronds that spelled out "help" on the desolate beach.