Last weekend, Spanish search and rescue agencies attempted to rescue the crew of a French sailboat that suffered bizarre and shocking casualties off the island of Gran Canaria. After a marathon 19-hour response, one survivor was rescued and a deceased crew member was rescued with the vessel.
At approximately 2000 hours on Sunday, rescue coordinators in Salvamento Maritimo, Spain, received a distress call from a crew member of the sailboat Poppy. His crew got tangled in the rigging aloft, hung from the mast, and were badly injured.
The duty officers dispatched the response vessel Salvamar Nunki and the rescue helicopter Helimer 201. Bad weather at the scene prevented Salvamar Nunki from being able to get close to the sailboat hauling rigging in the water. The helicopter crew managed to free an uninjured survivor from the deck of the yacht, but the second crew member, who remained dangling from the rigging, could not be reached as the vessel swayed in rough seas, local media reported. Above, “Bleeding profusely”.
Helimer 201 returned to shore with survivors, and Salvamar Nunki kept watch through the night. A second ship, the Guardamar Polimnia, joined her on Monday morning. Conditions were still too difficult to allow boarding, but rescuers could see victims falling from the masts and lying unconscious on deck.
Salvamento Maritimo sent a large salvage tug named Miguel de Cervantes from the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to join the rescue. The tug started sailing at around 1230 GMT on Monday, according to AIS data provided by Pole Star.
Meanwhile, Polimnia’s crew managed to get the tugboat onto the damaged yacht and began to rendezvous with Cervantes. At 1500 hours, the two ships rendezvoused approximately 25 nautical miles northeast of Las Palmas, approximately 19 hours after the emergency response began. Salvage divers from the Spanish National Guard boarded the yacht to recover the bodies of the victims.
The sailor’s fate seemed uncharacteristically unfortunate: EFE’s photos from the Las Palmas marina showed blood on the yacht’s mast and radome.
Gran Canaria police are investigating the cause of the accident.