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Police rescue two men with severe hypothermia in Strait of Gibraltar

Brian Reyes

Two men were plucked from the sea by a Gibraltarian police crew who found them clinging to a jet ski in the Strait of Gibraltar suffering from severe hypothermia and close to death.

Crew on the Royal Gibraltar Police vessel Sir Francis Richards found the men nearly seven miles southeast of the Rock after being alerted by the crew of the gas carrier LNG Kano, which was sailing through the strait.

The police launch was part of a cross-border search and rescue operation launched at 1.20pm after the Gibraltar Port Authority was alerted by Spain’s maritime rescue service, Salvamento Marítimo, that two men were missing in the Bay of Gibraltar.

The GPA coordinated vessels from the RGP, HM Customs and the Gibraltar Defence Police as they conducted a systematic search of the bay in heavy swells.

But after several false starts, information was received from the LNG Kano that the the two men had been spotted 6.9 nautical miles into the strait.

“The initial report suggested that the individuals were either dead or in very poor condition,” a police spokesman said.

The RGP crew on board the interceptor vessel Sir Francis Richard made its way at full speed to the tanker’s last reported position and established communications with both the tanker and the vessel marine traffic centre at Tarifa.

“Together with a Salvamento Maritimo SAR helicopter, they begun retracing the tanker’s wake and despite the poor visibility due to the heavy easterly swells the RGP crew sighted the two individuals in the water holding on to their now swamped jetski,” the RGP spokesman said.

The two men were pulled onto the police vessel in very poor condition and were given first aid for severe hypothermia.

“Shortly after, the Salvamento Marítimo vessel Salvamar Atria arrived at the scene with the Sir Francis Richard and the two men were transferred onboard and given immediate medical attention by the Salvamar crew, who stated that the men would not have survived exposure to the elements much longer,” the police spokesman said.

The search was then called off and all Gibraltar vessels returned to their respective bases.

The jet ski sank as the Spanish vessel attempted to tow it in the heavy swell.

Acting Commissioner Richard Ullger praised the close coordination and cooperation between local and Spanish search and rescue organisations and maritime assets, who spared no effort in their efforts to save the lives of these two individuals.