A 62-year-old Frenchman survived for 16 hours trapped in an air bubble inside his overturned sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean near Galicia, Spain, on Tuesday afternoon. according to CNN. The man, who has not yet been named, endured a full night in frigid waters before being rescued.
While the Spanish Coast Guard was alerted on Monday at 8:23 p.m. for the sailor’s distress signal, the seas were too dangerous to attempt a rescue dive. according to the BBC. Because of the conditions, the man’s survival was not guaranteed, divers said.
“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,” the Maritime Safety and Rescue Society tweeted on Wednesday. “Yesterday we successfully completed the rescue of the French crew member who spent 16 hours inside his overturned sailboat in Malpica.”
Tracking data confirmed the man had set sail on Sunday from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. according to the Guardian. The search for his boat involved three helicopters and a rescue ship with five divers, who found the man’s 40-foot boat named Jeanne Solo Sailor about 15 miles off the Sisargas Islands near Galicia.
While unable to save him yet, a brave diver descended from one of the helicopters with a winch to attach buoyancy balloons to the boat to keep it afloat until conditions improved. The diver also confirmed that the sailor was alive by returning his blows to the hull from the inside.
Dramatic footage shared on Wednesday by the Spanish Society for Maritime Safety and Rescue showed two rescue divers on Tuesday afternoon. They found the sailor in a neoprene suit and submerged up to his knees, only for him to jump into the water.
“On his own initiative he entered the water and dived free, assisted by the divers who had to pull him in because it was difficult for him to get out in his suit,” said Vincent Compello, a member of the Coast Guard special operations. club.
The sailor was then airlifted and briefly treated, but was released a short time later without injury.
The the Coast Guard tweeted“Every life we save is our greatest reward.”