5-year-old girl dies in rescue helicopter after spending 17 days in a boat
A five-year-old girl of sub-Saharan origin died last night while she was being evacuated by an Air Force helicopter after spending 17 days in a small patera crossing the Atlantic. The helicopter that picked her and two others up from the merchant ship that had rescued them out at sea, the Cape Taweelah, arrived at the Doctor Negrín University Hospital in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, at around 11:50pm but the young girls was dead on arrival.
The girl, and the woman who was also being taken to hospital, were already in a very bad condition after 17 days lost at sea, entered cardiorespiratory arrest during the flight of almost 500 kilometres. The Army SAR nurses tried to revive the two of them, but they only managed to save the adult woman’s life.
The patera was found on Tuesday by a merchant ship en route at a point in the Atlantic between Nouadhibou (Mauritania) and Dakhla (Sahara), two of the most frequent places of departure for boats and cayucos to the Canary Islands, although at the moment it is not known if it had left that area or was left adrift and was dragged for days towards that position by the current and the wind.
As soon as Cape Taweelah's emergency call was received, Marítime Rescue immediately mobilized the Guardamar Talía rescue boat from the port of Arguineguín in Gran Canaria, which was scheduled to arrive at its position around midnight.
However, the operation was aborted when the Talía had travelled about 160 kilometres because the freighter reported that it had managed to lift 35 people alive (13 men, 16 women and six children) to its deck, but they also reported that on board the boat was the corpse of a man.
The crew of this ship from the Marshall Islands had their doubts about whether or not to undertake this manoeuvre, because there were rough seas and any wrong movement could cause the boat to crash into the hull of the merchant ship which is 291 metres long.
However, in the end they succeeded and immediately informed maritime rescue that a young girl needed urgent evacuation, so the Air Force sent the SAR helicopter from the Gando Base in Gran Canaria to rescue her.
The aircraft landed at the Doctor Negrín Hospital shortly before midnight, but unfortunately, it was too late for the little girl. The woman was taken to the intensive care unit in critical condition and the man was transferred to another hospital in the city.
Until these two new deaths were confirmed (the girl and the man on the boat), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calculated that the number of people who have lost their lives this first semester trying to reach the Canary Islands in boats or Cayucos is between 136 and 160, which is an average close to one death per day.