Fishing Trawler Goes Down Off the Coast of South Africa

11 Presumed Dead After Boat Sinks

( – Officials in South Africa have ended their search for the crew of a fishing trawler that sank just off the Cape of Good Hope on May 17. While they initially hoped to rescue all 20 of the people who were on board at the time, search efforts stalled after multiple ships failed to report any conclusive sightings.

According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Lepanto sent out a distress call on Friday afternoon, noting that it was taking on water approximately 34 nautical miles offshore. The Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) coordinated with local vessels in the area to begin searching for and rescuing the crew.

Nearly a dozen ships and the National Sea Rescue Institute responded to the call for aid. Aerios Global, a private company in Cape Town, also sent a fixed-wing airplane and helicopter to help scan the water from above.

A short time later, civilian boats located two life rafts belonging to the Lepanto adrift. The fishing vessel Armana rescued nine crew members from the first raft and brought them safely back ashore. Tragically, the other raft was found empty and contained no trace of the 11 remaining crew or two dogs believed to have been on board when the vessel sank.

The multi-pronged search continued all the way through the weekend. During that time, one of the aircraft spotted netting and floats from the Lepanto scattered in the water. The Maritime Executive reported that rescue teams made the grim discovery of one crew member’s body along with the remains of both dogs early on Sunday. However, SAMSA did not make note of this, so the accuracy of that reporting remains unclear.

On Monday, SAMSA made the difficult decision to call off the search and rescue operation as weather and ocean conditions continued to deteriorate. Swells of 9 to 13 feet and winds of up to 10 knots made it too dangerous to continue scouring the ocean by water or air.

How or why the Lepanto sank, or what happened to the remaining crew members, remains unclear at this time. SAMSA is still investigating.

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