Thirty-six tourists rescued after tour boat capsizes off Portugal

Boat capsized off the coast of the Algarve. Photo courtesy of AMN.

A group of tourists say they were lucky to survive after their tour boat capsized off the coast of the Algarve in southern Portugal on Monday afternoon (20 February 2023), and several lifejackets failed to activate.

The National Maritime Authority of Portugal (Autoridade Maritima Nacional; AMN) reports the vessel had 36 people on board, including four children, when it began rapidly taking on water around half a mile from the town of Carvoeiro. Sources informed The Sun that passengers included at least five Brits and two Irish nationals, alongside French, Belgian, Canadian, Swiss, and South Korean holidaymakers.

A distress alert was issued at 1.20pm local time. AMN says members of the Portimão Maritime Police of Portimão and Ferragudo Lifeguard Station were immediately sent to the site. Several other good samaritan vessels had arrived on the scene swiftly.

“I thought I was going to die,” tourist Lila Evangelista from London tells The Sun. The water wasn’t really high to start with, and I was calm but then it started rising very quickly, and I began to panic. The coastguards came a little bit late when everyone was already in the big boat that picked up most of those that ended up in the water.”

Fellow passenger Troy French adds: “I’m not exactly sure what happened. I was on the phone to some of my colleagues back in England, and then I looked behind me, and there was lots of water coming into the boat. The crew started to panic, and they started lifting some emergency things up, and the water started going into the engine — it was smoking.”

French tells the newspaper that the back of the boat rapidly started sinking, forcing people to jump into the ocean.

“A lot of people’s lifejackets were failing and weren’t activating when people were going into the water,” he continues. “It was a really bad experience and very scary.”

Upon the arrival of the rescue vessels, almost all passengers had reportedly been in the water for over 10 minutes. Everybody was rescued with the support of a tourist boat that was nearby and the Ferragudo Lifeguard Station boat.

Some passengers were showing signs of hypothermia and received treatment. No injuries have been reported.

After the rescue, the capsized tour boat was raised and towed to Portimão by a salvage company hired by the owners.

The maritime police are now preparing to begin an investigation into the incident.

In 2018, British man Richard Chapelow was killed after being thrown from a banana boat at the Santa Clara Dam in Portugal, an hour north of the Algarve region.

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