Policia Maritima

Skipper survives eight hours at sea after shipwreck off Figueira da Foz

No trace of three crew members, or boat

Miracle emerged from tragedy yesterday when the 42-year-old skipper of a missing fishing boat managed to swim almost all the way to the shore, before being picked up by rescuers.

The exhausted man, already suffering ‘confusion and hypothermia’, was rescued shortly after 6pm clinging to a fishing buoy just outside Praia de Pedrógão, south of Figueira da Foz.

The boat he was running, the Letícia Clara had been flagged as ‘missing’ since earlier that afternoon.

The last communication with the owner of the vessel (a man with a trawling company based in Vila do Conde) was that the crew was “still fishing, and would be returning to port at midday”.

When this didn’t happen, and attempts by the owner to reach his men by phone failed, searches began, by air and sea. It was two Maritime police agents, carrying out searches on land, who heard the skipper’s cries for help as he desperately tried to reach the shore of Pedrógão beach, hanging on to a fishing buoy.

Named in later reports as Rui Camaço, ‘resident of Caxinas, Vila do Conde’, he was ‘conscious’ when hauled to safety, but barely coherent – which is why it is still unclear what actually happened to cause the sinking of the Letícia Clara.

Figueira da Foz ports captain Pedro Costa is certain only of one thing: if those two police agents hadn’t heard Rui Camaço’s cries, he would not have made it to shore.

“They got into a life raft and brought him in. They saved a life”, he told Porto’s ‘radiometropolitano’.

Rescue teams kept up their searches through the night, but as of early today there was no news on the whereabouts of the three other crew members (a Moroccan and two Indonesians) and no sign of the 13.5 metre Letícia Clara.

Once Rui Camaço recovers sufficiently, further details may emerge.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com