'My Time to Die Hasn't Come': Madagascar Minister Swims 12 Hours to Land After Helicopter Crash

Two other people — the pilot and a military officer — are missing, Madagascar's Maritime and River Port Agency said

General Serge Gelle
Photo: GAELLE BORGIA/AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images

Madagascar's police minister is recovering from a harrowing swim to safety following a helicopter crash off the island's coast.

Authorities said General Serge Gelle and a second passenger swam for 12 hours after their helicopter crashed into the Indian Ocean on Monday, according to BBC News and Agence France-Presse.

The Maritime and River Port Agency said two other people — the pilot and a military officer — are still missing, per BBC News.

On Tuesday, Madagascar's Ministry of National Defense shared a video of Gelle recuperating after the ordeal. Despite being cold, Gelle said in the clip that he was not injured, AFP reported.

"My time to die hasn't come yet," he told the camera while lying down, as transcribed by the French news agency. Gelle, who was still wearing his camouflage, appeared to have waterlogged hands in the clip.

Gelle and three others were attempting to assess a deadly shipwreck on Monday when the helicopter went down, according to the reports. Port authority chief Jean-Edmond Randrianantenaina said Tuesday that Gelle and the second surviving victim, identified as Chief Warrant Officer Andrianarison Laitsara Jimmy by Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina, ejected themselves from the aircraft, AFB reported.

After swimming for about 12 hours, the pair reached shore separately on the northeast side of the island near Mahambo, Randrianantenaina explained.

Rescuers also located "the helicopter carcass at the bottom of the sea," according to the Ministry of National Defense's tweet.

General Serge Gelle

Police chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy told AFP that Gelle managed to survive by using a seat from the helicopter as a floatation device. He commended Gelle for having "nerves of steel."

"He has always had great stamina in sport, and he's kept up this rhythm as minister, just like a 30-year-old," Ravoavy told the French news agency.

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Ministry of National Defense Madagascar Twitter

At least 64 people have been found dead and 20 were still missing from the shipwreck as of Wednesday, BBC News reported. At least 45 people have been rescued.

President Rajoelina offered his condolences to the families of the victims of the shipwreck and the missing helicopter personnel.

"It is with deep sadness that I learned of the sinking of a ship off Antsiraka and its terrible toll. My thoughts are with the victims and their bereaved loved ones," he wrote, as translated on Twitter. "I solemnly pray for the rest of their souls."

Rajoelina added, "My thoughts are also on the helicopter pilot, Colonel Hery Rakotomiliarison and Colonel Olivier Andrianambinina sent to the area, victims of a crash, still missing. Courage to their loved ones and their families in this ordeal."

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