The Seychelles Maritime Safety Authority has urged all fishermen and seafarers to be more responsible when at sea and notify the authorities each time they leave port.
They should also ensure that they have at least basic safety equipment before setting out to sea.
The director of the SMSA, Captain Joachim Valmont, made this statement yesterday during a press conference at the SMSA conference room.
The press conference was to give more details on the rescue mission that took place on Saturday night and Sunday morning after a boat accident claimed the lives of three persons – two women and a man – off Round Island, about half way between La Digue and Praslin.
Captain Valmont expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the three victims – Cynthia and Helena César, and Bernard Camille – on behalf of all the authorities involved, before going on to give details about the SMSA’s involvement in the rescue mission which ended up saving the lives of Aubrey Jacqueline and six-year-old Rio Chang-Tave.
According to information gathered by our reporter on La Digue and later confirmed by police spokesman Jean Toussaint, the boat capsized in the Ros Kannal area after a lady – Cynthia César – had fallen overboard and the other occupants all moved on one side to try and retrieve her.
After the accident, which occurred at about 7pm, the boat’s skipper and owner, Teddy Stravens, managed to swim to the Mary Anne, a yacht which was then moored off La Digue. The crew took him back to the accident area and after they could find neither sign of his boat nor of any passengers, they brought him back to the island.
“Upon hearing of the incident, I immediately contacted the Seychelles Coast Guard to ensure that they have received the information about the incident and to find out what their response was,” said Captain Valmont, who explained that the coast guard immediately took control of the operation while the SMSA took charge from the command centre to help coordinate the rescue operation.
He went on to explain how they sought help from the HMAS Perth that was in port at the time and the vessel provided one of the helicopters to help with the operation.
Also present at the press conference was the chairman of the Maritime Accident Investigation Board (MAIB), Captain Robert Morgan, Police Commissioner Reginald Elizabeth and the Seychelles Coast Guard’s on-scene Commander during the operation, Captain Hans Radegonde.
Captain Morgan noted that the role of the MAIB is to investigate and establish the facts and causes of the accident so that they can eventually make recommendations to the SMSA to ensure such incidents do not happen again.
“We began our investigation on Saturday night and we have interviewed a number of people in our attempts to get the information we need and we are still doing this as the investigation is ongoing,” said Captain Morgan.
He added that he was not at liberty to reveal any findings so far until the investigation is complete.
Captain Radegonde on his part was on the scene of the accident and he explained that the rough seas and poor visibility made it very hard to locate the victims at night and that the wind and current played a big part in moving the boat from where the accident was reported to have happened and this made the search even more difficult.
“We continued our search early the next morning, with the assistance of two helicopters and a plane and it was then that we found the two survivors,” said Captain Radegonde, before adding: “The older man was in okay condition, but that of the little boy was much more critical and after administering first aid, we handed both of them over to the Baie Ste Anne hospital for further treatment.
With regard to the third victim, Bernard Camille, he was only found when the both was ashore as at the time of the search and rescue operation, two civilian boats took the wreckage and tugged it back to La Digue.
“We did not have any contact with the wreckage while at sea and if we did, we had divers on board who would have been instructed to search the wreckage before it was taken ashore,” added Captain Radegonde.
Police Commissioner Elizabeth on his part revealed that the skipper of the boat has appeared before the court and has been released on certain conditions while the investigation into the accident continues.
Many people have been asking about the role of the Marine Police in this incident and here the Police Commissioner explained that the Marine Police normally patrol coastal areas and not the open sea.
“We knew that there would be a lot of water activities during this time and our officers were stationed on Praslin as their boats were not equipped to patrol the rough seas between the two islands,” the commissioner said.
In view of this incident, questions have been asked about maritime safety and here Captain Valmont explained that it is the responsibility of every fisherman or skipper to notify the port of their destination, number of passengers, their return date, etc… but often these things are not done.