A government official in Madagascar got the workout of his life on Tuesday when he and a colleague had to swim 12 hours to shore after their helicopter crashed.
The Madagascan secretary of state for police and another police officer swam to shore. They did so after ejecting themselves from a helicopter that crashed on the northeastern coast of the country. The cause of the crash remains unclear, CBS reports.
Serge Gelle and the policeman, Laitsara Jimmy Andrianarison, both arrived in the coastal town of Mahambo on Tuesday morning. They showed up there separately, port authority chief Jean-Edmond Randrianantenaina told CBS.
Government Official Used Helicopter Seat as a Flotation Device
Gelle, 57, appeared in a video lying on a deck chair, worn out from his journey, and still in his camo fatigues. The video promptly made the rounds on social media.
The minister said he was cold but unharmed. He added, “My time to die hasn’t come yet.”
The helicopter had been taking the minister, the police officer and two other passengers to the location of a shipwreck that occurred on the country’s northeastern coast on Monday morning. At least 39 people lost their lives in that shipwreck, police chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy told CBS on Tuesday. That was up from an earlier estimate after rescuers found 18 more corpses. Dozens more remain missing.
Madagascar’s Ministry of National Defense said on Twitter that a search team had found the remains of the helicopter at the bottom of the sea.
Ravoavy told Agence France-Presse that Gelle had converted one of the helicopter’s seats into a floatation device.
Gelle Has ‘Nerves of Steel’
Gelle had served in the police force for three decades before becoming minister during a cabinet reshuffle this past summer. And the police chief spoke of the minister admiringly in the wake of his epic swimming feat.
“He has always had great stamina in sport, and he’s kept up this rhythm as minister, just like a thirty-year-old,” Ravoavy told AFP. “He has nerves of steel.”
The Madagascan defense ministry said the search continues for the other two passengers in the helicopter.
“GDI Serge Gelle, one of the passengers in the helicopter which crashed yesterday, was found safe and sound this morning near Mahambo,” the ministry posted on Twitter. “The non-commissioned engineer, one of the passengers in the helicopter which crashed last night, was also found unharmed. The search for the pilot and the last passenger is still ongoing.”
“This evening, another boat has just been launched to reinforce the search for the castaways and the 2 remaining soldiers, passengers of the helicopter,” it added.