10:49 AM PST, December 23, 2021
“It’s not my time to die,” Police Minister Serge Gelle told reporters as he recovered on a stretcher, BBC said.
Gelle was one of two survivors from Monday night’s crash. The search for other passengers continues, The Guardian reported.
Gelle, the country’s secretary of state for police, and another police officer, swam for 12 hours following the crash off the island’s northeast coast, authorities said.
The two swam to the seaside town of Mahambo separately on Tuesday morning, apparently after ejecting themselves from the aircraft, port authority chief Jean-Edmond Randrianantenaina said.
The helicopter was flying Gelle and at least four others on board, including the pilot, who were dispatched to inspect the site of a shipwreck on Monday morning before it went down, Al-Jazeera reported.
The ship had at least 64 people on board who all drowned, authorities said.
“There were four of us in the aircraft. I was seated behind the pilot,” Gelle told reporters. “Not having a life jacket, I unfastened the seat and used it as a buoy. I stayed calm and took off anything heavy I was carrying like my boots and belt. I did everything to stay alive.”
What caused the helicopter crash remains unknown and an investigation is taking place into what brought it down, Al-Jazeera said.
Gelle told reporters he expected to be back at work in 24 hours. His colleagues say he has “nerves of steel,” The Guardian reported.