Catamaran saved by emergency services off Denia

A DRAMATIC, yet all too commonplace air-sea rescue took place off Denia, with a catamaran being reported missing by family members, when the vessel still had not returned after four hours at sea and with darkness falling.

The emergency services were alerted with a 112 call, and immediately a rescue boat was launched and a Maritime Rescue helicopter dispatched, equipped with night time vision.

Luckily, the catamaran was located just a few miles offshore and within ten minutes of sighting the craft it was established that all four on board were safe and well.

So far this year (up to August 10 ) there have been 115 such emergency rescues in the Valencia region, with 227 people being rescued. The emergency services are a 24/7 365 days a year operation that often go unnoticed – until you need them. Most of the air sea rescues involved pleasure boats that had got out of their depths or into difficulties.

This high season, July alone accounted for 73 incidents, the majority of which (49) occurred in the Alicante province, with its tourist population boosted at this time of year.

Only 37 people involved in emergency call outs were able to get back to dry land without the assistance of the rescue services. The rest would hve suffered an altogether different fate if the rescuers were not on hand.

Is this recklessness on the part of those being rescued who put themselves in the position where they need help? “Mainly it is a matter of boats not being able to function properly after nine months or so being moored, without proper maintenance, “ said Antonio Padial, the head of the Rescue Coordination Centre of Valencia.

“We even have instances were these boats have simply run out of fuel, and that is simply reckless.”

The emergency services do not charge for these rescues. Or as Sr Padial put it in more eloquent terms, “The saving of human lives has no price.”  In contrast, the recovery of their boats does incur a fee, in line with figures published in an official shipping gazette, which is available for all boat owners to read.

Running an emergency service is a costly business. Valencia employs a team of A 87 specialists, and the physical area which comes under the wing of the Valencia emergency services is immense; 32,000 square kilometres of sea in fact. Running from Castellon in the north to Torrevieja in the south, and eastwards to just twenty miles off Ibiza.

As well as the staff there are four rescue ships based in Burriana, Valencia, Javea and Alicante, and a helicopter which has capacity to take 16 passengers, and a fixed wing aeroplane.

In the case of the catamaran, the four passengers were transferred to shore as their boat had suffered a broken sail. The rescuers relayed a phone message to family members awaiting on shore with the words “Everything is fine. They are taking a shower.”  If those rescued needed hospital treatment  they are taken direct by helicopter, and even if not needed,  they shower and are provided with underwear, full tracksuit and sandals.

The role of Valencia’s Air Sea rescue Service mostly giving assistance to any emergency that may arise at sea. In summer, it mostly involves broken down recreational craft, but there have been cases, as in July, where the helicopter had to evacuate a person who suffered a heart attack on a passing cruise ship.

They are also used to check on and combat pollution by dumping of ships. There are fatalities, but they are rare, thanks to Valencia’s emergency services.

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