The Malta Independent 26 September 2017, Tuesday

Search for 5 missing tourists continues; two bodies found

Malta Independent Tuesday, 7 May 2013, 18:26 Last update: about 4 years ago

Two bodies, believed to be of tourists who went missing on Sunday night while on their return by boat from Xlendi to Dwejra, have been found at Fomm ir-Rih this afternoon, the police said.

The bodies, of two women, have been hoisted by an Italian Military Mission helicopter. A capsized boat has also been found.

The identity of the bodies is not yet known, but it is likely they are two of the five French tourists who were last seen at about midnight on Sunday-Monday night. Life-jackets were found nearby too.

Throughout the day, the Armed Forces of Malta have continued with search efforts to locate the five persons reported missing Monday afternoon.

The search has been somewhat hampered by heavy sea conditions including up to 35 knots of wind. Assets assigned to the operation include the AFM’s King Air Maritime Patrol Aircraft as well as an Alouette III helicopter which conducted thorough searches in the area South and South West of the Maltese Islands. 

Covering a total of 1,000 square nautical miles the AFM’s search efforts were complemented by further deployments of the Italian Military Mission Helicopter (AB212). 

With a view to generating the maximum search effort possible during daylight hours, RCC Malta has requested the participation of a P3 Orion Aircraft from the US Navy 6th Fleet stationed in Sicily and an Italian Coast Guard P166 Aircraft based out of Catania Airport.  Both these aircraft are currently conducting search flights under the command of the AFM’s Rescue Coordination Centre in Luqa.

Earlier, the AFM said that on Monday at 4.30pm, the Victoria (Gozo) Police Station informed Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Malta that a Spanish National had presented himself at the station claiming that 5 persons were missing from aboard the yacht of which he was the master. The 5 French citizens comprised 2 males, 2 females and a 15 year old boy. They were reported to have left the yacht, ‘El Pirata’, which was anchored in the vicinity of Dwejra previous evening. The five individuals had embarked aboard the yacht’s 4 meter tender and made their way towards Xlendi Bay to have dinner in one of the restaurants. Investigations conducted by the Police in Xlendi confirmed that the persons had indeed landed in Xlendi and had frequented one of the local restaurants. A witness observed their departure from Xlendi at around midnight. The 5 individuals never returned to the ‘El Pirata’. The master of the yacht initially attempted to search for the missing tender himself before making his report to the authorities.

On receipt of the report RCC Malta triggered a large scale Search and Rescue operation. Two AFM vessels were dispatched to investigate with the Gozo Patrol vessel, P32 commencing an initial search within minutes. The Search and Rescue Launch Melita I was also deployed to the area to assist in the search. An AFM Alouette III helicopter was also dispatched to cover areas further offshore and remained on task till around 1845hrs.

Given the negative results yielded by the initial searches, an AFM King Air B200 Maritime Patrol Aircraft was deployed up to 2130hrs to conduct a more deliberate search, which effort was also coordinated with the activities of the Italian Military Mission AB 212 Helicopter which was also deployed. Search efforts ensued throughout the night and included searches conducted from land around the Gozitan coastline and a further deployment of the B200 aircraft around midnight.

All vessels transiting within the designated search area have been requested to keep sharp lookout and the search effort has been resumed this morning with a first search flight taking off at 0545hrs. A number of further flights are planned to take place throughout the daylight hours. No significant sightings have yet been reported by any of the search units. RCC Malta continues to coordinate search efforts and is liaising closely with MRCC Gris Nez in France to keep the French authorities appraised of the progress of search efforts.

Any persons who may have information pertinent to this case are encouraged to contact RCC Malta on 22494202.

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