A government official from Madagascar swam 12 hours to shore after a helicopter crash Monday left him and another policeman stranded in the Indian Ocean.
Serge Gelle, Madagascar's secretary of state for police, was one of two survivors of the helicopter crash, which occurred on the way to view a shipwreck that killed 64 people. A search is underway for two other passengers on the helicopter who were also law enforcement. Both men arrived in the port town of Mahambo, Madagascar, separately on Tuesday morning.
“My time to die hasn’t come yet,” Gelle said in a Tuesday video posted on social media, adding that he was cold but not injured.
Police Chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy said Gelle used a seat from the helicopter as a flotation device after ejecting himself from the aircraft and praised his ability to return safely.
“He has always had great stamina in sport, and he’s kept up this rhythm as minister, just like a 30-year-old,” Ravoavy said, according to the Guardian. “He has nerves of steel.”
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Gelle serves on the Cabinet of Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina, who praised Gelle's dedication to return to Madagascar after the helicopter crash and sent his condolences to the families of the shipwreck victims.
"It is with profound sadness that I learned of the sinking of a ship off the coast of Antsiraka and its terrible toll. My thoughts are with the victims and their grieving loved ones. I solemnly pray for the rest of their souls." Rajoelina said Tuesday in a series of tweets translated by the Washington Examiner. "I salute the entire dedication of the secretary of state of Gendamerie, the general Serge Gelle, and the Chief Warrant Officer Andrianarison Laitsara Jimmy, survivors of the crash as their helicopter was going to help some castaways."
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Rajoelina added that he would provide whatever assistance was necessary for the recovery efforts of both crashes.
The causes of both incidents are still being investigated at this time, though an initial investigation into the shipwreck suggested the ship's engine had a technical problem, according to maritime authorities.