A government minister from Madagascar reportedly swam twelve hours to safety after his helicopter crashed while surveying the site of a shipwreck on Monday.
General Serge Gelle, the Madagascar Minister of Police, was on a survey of a shipwreck that occurred earlier the same day. The Francia, a cargo ship that was illegally carrying 138 people when it experienced an engine problem. The death toll from the wreck as of Thursday was 85.
When Gen Gelle and two other passengers flew in a helicopter over the site of the Francia wreck, a gust of wind caught the aircraft, plummeting it toward the ocean. “Not having a life jacket, I unfastened the seat and used it as a buoy. I stayed calm and took off anything heavy I was carrying like my boots and belt. I did everything to stay alive,” he said in a video posted to Twitter by the Defense Ministry.
Gelle then swam for 12 hours before a fisherman rescued him off the coast of Mahambo, according to Port authority chief Jean-Edmond Randrianantenaina.
“I thank heaven that there was a fisherman,” he said in another video taken at the hospital where he was being examined after his harrowing experience. “Since I couldn’t fight the waves, I knew I wouldn’t make it to dry land. Yet I was very close. I arrived within 500 meters, but the waves sent me back because I was getting tired.”
Another passenger, identified as Chief Warrant Officer Andrianarison Laitsara Jimmy by the Madagascar President, also swam to safety, arriving separately from Gelle. Colonel Hery Rakotomiliarison and Colonel Olivier Andrianambinina were also on the helicopter when it crashed. Col. Andrianambinina’s body was recovered by rescue workers on Wednesday, and Col. Rakotomiliarison is still missing.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: PEOPLE.COM
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