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One Dead in Bizarre Accident Aboard Yacht Off Gran Canaria

Poppy yacht

Published Jan 17, 2023 8:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Last weekend, Spain's search and rescue agency attempted to save the crew of a French sailing yacht that had suffered a bizarre and shocking casualty off Gran Canaria. One survivor was rescued, and one deceased crewmember was recovered along with the vessel after a 19-hour marathon response. 

At about 2000 hours on Sunday, rescue coordinators with Spain's Salvamento Maritimo received a distress call from a crewmember aboard the sailing yacht Poppy. His crewmate had gotten tangled in rigging aloft and was suspended from the mast, badly injured. 

Watchstanders dispatched the response boat Salvamar Nunki, along with the rescue helicopter Helimer 201. Weather conditions on scene were rough, and Salvamar Nunki could not approach the sailboat, which was dragging lines and rigging in the water. The helicopter aircrew managed to evacuate an uninjured survivor from the yacht's decks, but the vessel's motion in the rough seas made it impossible to reach the second crewmember, who was still suspended in the rigging and "bleeding badly," according to local media

Helimer 201 returned to shore with the survivor, and Salvamar Nunki kept watch through the night. On Monday morning second vessel, the Guardamar Polimnia, joined her on scene. Conditions were still too difficult to allow a boarding, but the responders could see that the victim had fallen from the mast and was unconscious on the deck. 

Salvamento Maritimo dispatched a large salvage tug, the Miguel de Cervantes, from the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to join the response. The tug got under way at about 1230 GMT on Monday, according to AIS data provided by Pole Star. 

Meanwhile, Polimnia's crew managed to rig a tow to the stricken yacht and got under way to meet up with the Cervantes. The vessels met up at 1500 hours at a position about 25 nautical miles northeast of Las Palmas, about 19 hours after the emergency response began. Salvage divers from Spain's Civil Guard boarded the yacht and recovered the body of the victim.  

The sailor appears to have suffered an extraordinarily unfortunate end: Photos taken by EFE at the marina in Las Palmas appear to show blood coating the yacht's mast and radar dome. 

The cause of the accident is under investigation by police in Gran Canaria.