Madagascar’s police minister and an air force mechanic managed to swim for 12 hours to safety after their helicopter crashed in the Indian Ocean.
General Serge Gelle, 57, Secretary of State for the Gendarmerie, was discovered in the water by a fisherman in a canoe who brought him ashore, officials said.
“My turn to die has not yet come, thank goodness. I’m well. I’m just cold, ”Gelle said in a video posted on Twitter by Madagascar’s defense ministry. “But I’m sad because I don’t know if my friends are alive.”
“There were four of us on the plane. I was sitting behind the pilot, ”he said of Monday night’s crash.
“Not having a life jacket, I unfastened the seat and used it as a buoy. I stayed calm and took off anything heavy I was carrying, like my boots and belt. I did everything to stay alive, “he said. Gelle said he expected to be back to work in 24 hours and said he lost his cell phone in the crash.
Many in Madagascar have applauded Gelle’s achievement, calling him a “hero”, “athlete extraordinary” and “a role model” on social media.
The cause of the helicopter crash “remains undetermined,” authorities said. Gelle said gusts of wind destabilized the plane. The helicopter pilot and another passenger are still missing.
The helicopter was one of two flying a government delegation to visit the site where a ship, the Francia, sank, drowning at least 64 people on board.
The small cargo ship sank Monday while illegally carrying 138 people, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Maritime and River Ports Agency.