Northern Irish couple rescued off Colombia after sinking sailboat
Two men from Co Down were fortunate enough to escape after being rescued by the Colombian Navy after their sailboat began to sink.
Amed locally as Newry-born Gerald McKevitt and Francie McKeown, the couple were part of a three-man crew on the German-flagged ‘Pinocchio’, which struggled 75 miles off the coast of Riohacha Saturday.
The boat is believed to have started to take on water during the trip from Cartagena to Curaçao in Venezuela, when Colombian officials were tasked with launching a search and rescue operation.
According to the Colombian Navy, the sailboat suffered damage to its hull “causing a strong influx of water”.
The Co Down pair are now believed to be living overseas while a third England national named Patrick Johnson was also on board.
In a video posted on social media by the Colombian Maritime Authority, one of the men thanked the authorities following the rescue operation.
“Captain, I want to thank you and all your crew on board for coming to rescue us,” the man said.
“We were in trouble and without you we would have had big, big problems. Thank you very much to you and your team.”
The ARC vessel ‘Providencia’ carried out the rescue as part of a coordinated operation between the Colombian Navy, the General Maritime Directorate and the National Tracing Unit of the Colombian Air Force.
Commander Alejandro Sanin, commander of Providencia, reported that a rescue plane, the RCC Curacao, flew over the area as his ship finally reached the scene and carried out the operation “amid difficult weather conditions “.
“At the scene of the emergency, ARC ‘Providencia’ identified the Portuguese-flagged merchant vessel ‘Savanna’ which was guarding the sailboat,” the Colombian navy said.
“The Colombian Maritime Authority ship successfully rescued the three foreign citizens who were drifting on the high seas aboard a boat.
“These three citizens received first aid, food and hydration to ensure their basic needs. For its part, the sailboat ‘Pinocchio’ sank and could not be rescued by the authorities.
“Rescued personnel were transported to the Santa Marta Coast Guard post, where they were made available to the corresponding immigration authorities.”
The three rescued men “will be able to find their family members safe and sound,” they added.
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