Daring Rescue Mission
11 February 2013
On Wednesday 6th February at around 5.30 pm Gozo Police informed the AFM Operations Centre, that two divers (a man and a woman) were missing after they left Malta at around 1030 hrs in the morning for a diving trip to Dwejra, Gozo.
The Police raised the alarm after locating the divers’ van parked at Dwejra with no diving equipment in it. It was thus assumed that the individuals went on a dive and failed to return. The Police searched the area around the diving site from land but to no avail.
Following receipt of the distress call, AFM rescue assets deployed within a very short time. An Aloutte III helicopter flew towards Dwejra whilst Search and Rescue boat Melita I braved the rough seas to also proceed on locations. Patrol boat P32 was also put on standby at high readiness at Mgarr Harbour.
Police Officers on site informed the AFM that they could make out one individual on the edge of the inland sea area struggling to hold on to the cliffs, however, they were unable to pinpoint the exact position.
The helicopter rescue team led by Pilot SSgt Mark Cassar and rescuer swimmers Sgt Pepe D and Lance Bombardier Cassar P. managed to locate the two individuals despite the harsh weather conditions. They pulled the two divers to safety at approximately 1830 hrs in what was termed as a ‘a very delicate air-sea’ operation’ that involved helicopter manoeuvres close to the cliffs in winds of well over 22 knots and sea state conditions of Force 6 to 7 during low light visibility.
The male diver was rescued first and was transferred to an awaiting ambulance at Dwejra that took him straight to Gozo Hospital. Once the first rescue was affected, the AFM helicopter continued searching for the second missing female diver. After scouring the area once again in the limited light available, and with the helicopter now low on fuel and searching in almost pitch darkness, the rescue mission was about to be suspended when Sgt Carmelo Psaila spotted what appeared to be the head of the missing diver barely visible in the waves. Once again an AFM rescue swimmer jumped into sea and managed to winch her safely onboard the helicopter and proceed directly to Gozo Hospital.
Both divers are reportedly today in stable condition. Commenting on the conduct of this operation, a senior AFM Officer praised the sheer guts and determination of the rescue team; ‘It is in real life situations like this, that one can really begin to appreciate the individual and team skill sets and qualities that are necessary to bring such rescue missions in perilous conditions to a successful end!’
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