“I thought I was going to die,” said one of the passengers
Faulty lifejackets and large waves caused moments of panic among the 36 tourists, including four children, who had to dive into the sea to escape a sinking boat near Alfanzina lighthouse in Carvoeiro, Lagoa, on Monday. The incident happened around 600 metres from the coast.
“It was very scary, I thought I was going to die,” one of the passengers told CNN Portugal after the ordeal. “What was even more scary was that the boat was sinking like the Titanic.”
Another passenger explained how some of the lifejackets were not working, which made the incident even more traumatic for passengers who didn’t know how to swim and particularly the children.
“It was really scary, a really traumatic experience,” the passenger said, adding that the stress affected crew members as well.
“The crew started to panic as well. There were some emergency things that they lifted up and all the water started to go into the engine and then there was smoke…,” the passenger described the stressful moments experienced on board.
Portimão port captain Rodrigo Gonzalez dos Paços said: “There were 36 people on board, including two crew members and four children. As soon as the incident was reported, agents from the maritime police, the Ferragudo lifeboat station and other tourist boats arrived at the scene. The passengers were all wearing lifejackets and were safely pulled from the water.”
He said that local maritime police were alerted at around 1.30pm, via the maritime search and rescue coordination centre of Lisbon (MRCC Lisbon), and that several vessels were involved in the rescue.
Passengers wore thermal blankets as they were transported to the Clube Naval de Portimão and, even though some were showing signs of hypothermia, the port captain said “no one required hospital care”.
After a first health assessment by the emergency teams, the maritime police took their identification, and the people were transported back to their hotels in a bus provided by Portimão council.
“Everything went well. Passengers were promptly rescued and checked by medical teams. After being identified, they were taken to their hotels,” he said.
Around 50 people participated in the rescue operation, with the support of 18 vehicles and three boats – one from the fire brigade, another from the maritime police and another from the Ferragudo lifeguard station – and several other tourist boats, Gonzalez de Paços said.
He added that a “helicopter from the national medical emergency institute (INEM) was on call at the Portimão naval support point” in case someone needed to be airlifted to hospital.
Meanwhile, ship-owner Miguel Vale was also unable to explain what caused the boat to sink.
“It was a state-of-the-art boat,” Vale told reporters. “Water started to leak into the boat for reasons that we do not know yet.”
The port captain said an investigation will be launched to determine the cause of the incident.