According to CNN, a 62-year-old Frenchman managed to spend 16 hours in an air bubble inside his capsized sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean close to Galicia, Spain, on Tuesday afternoon. The unnamed man spent the entire night in the chilly water before being saved.
The sailor’s distress call was reported to the Spanish coast guard on Monday at 8:23 p.m., but the BBC reports that the seas were too hazardous to attempt a rescue dive. Divers stated that the man’s survival was not guaranteed because of the circumstances.
The Maritime Safety and Rescue Society tweeted on Wednesday, “‘On the edge of the impossible, in an operation against the clock, with rough seas, at night, 15 miles from the coast and in the middle of nowhere. We were able to safely rescue the French crew member who had been trapped inside his capsized sailboat in Malpica for 16 hours yesterday.
According to The Guardian, tracking information showed the man set sail on Sunday from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Three helicopters were used in the hunt for his boat, along with a rescue ship carrying five divers, who located the man’s Jeanne Solo Sailor, a 40-foot boat, some 15 miles from the Sisargas Islands in Galicia.
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One heroic diver was lowered from one of the helicopters with a winch to connect buoyancy balloons to the boat in order to keep it floating until conditions improved, even though he couldn’t yet rescue him. The return of his knocks against the hull from within gave the diver further proof that the sailor was still alive.
Two divers risked their lives during a rescue Tuesday afternoon, as seen in dramatic video released by Spain’s Maritime Safety and Rescue Society on Wednesday. The sailor was discovered by them wearing a neoprene suit and knee-deep in water before he jumped into the ocean.
According to Vincent Cobelo, a member of the coast guard’s special operations squad, “he plunged into the water on his own initiative and freedived out, supported by the divers who had to pull him through because it was tough for him to get out in his suit.”
After being transported, the sailor spent a short time in the hospital but was soon released without suffering any injuries.
“Each life saved is our greatest prize,” the coast guard tweeted.