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Spanish coast guard divers rescued a 62-year-old French sailor who survived for 16 hours inside an air bubble of his capsized vessel as it drifted in the Atlantic Ocean, officials said Tuesday.
Spain’s Maritime Safety and Rescue Society located the French sailboat Jeanne SOLO Sailor overturned about 14 miles from the Sisargas Islands off Spain’s northwestern Galicia region, the agency said.
The 40-foot boat had set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, on Sunday morning, and sent a distress signal just before 9 p.m. on Monday, Reuters reported, citing the coast guard.
Rescuers located the overturned ship, and one diver was winched onto the hull to investigate whether anyone was alive, officials said. The trapped man responded to the diver’s knocks on the hull by knocking back.
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Divers described the rescue operation as “verging on the impossible,” the outlet reported.
The waters were too rough to attempt a rescue until morning, the agency said. Rescuers attached buoyancy devices to the hull to prevent the ship from sinking further.
Once morning arrived, two divers swam under the sailboat and found the man, who has not been identified, in water up to his knees.
The man was able to dive out of the ship on his own, with some help from the divers, and reach the surface of the ocean, the coast guard said.
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He was treated at a hospital and later released.
“Each life saved is our biggest reward,” Spain’s Maritime Safety and Rescue Society said in a tweet.