11 July 2005

Red Sea liveaboard sinks after hitting reef

My Coral Queen, one of the best-known Red Sea liveaboards, sank at the Sha'ab Sataya dive site at Fury Shoals, after hitting the reef in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

My Coral Queen, one of the best-known Red Sea liveaboards, sank at the Sha'ab Sataya dive site at Fury Shoals, after hitting the reef in the early hours of Tuesday morningThe party of British divers aboard escaped unhurt to another liveaboard, mv Heaven Majesty, which had been moored close to Coral Queen the night before.

Because of the speed of the sinking, the passengers' possessions other than what they were wearing had to be abandoned. They were subsequently taken to Al Hamada and transferred to Cairo to obtain new passports at the British embassy.

The 80ft Coral Queen, built in 1996, was owned by diving enthusiast Guido Sherif until the end of last year, when she was sold to Hamada & Karina Hamelynck, owners of the Queen Juliana liveaboard. Equipped for long-range cruises, Coral Queen carried up to 12 divers on southern Egyptian Red Sea trips for UK tour operator Oonasdivers.

The boat filled rapidly with water and settled on the sand at a depth of 10m. An attempt to salvage possessions was due to be made on scuba.

Passengers later spoke to Diver's John Bantin, who was aboard Heaven Majesty at the time. John Dawson and Tina Cushing from Stockport said they had heard the engines start in their cabin below decks at the front of the boat, then heard a terrible crash.

"We knew we'd hit the reef," said John. "The impact was so loud and the boat was stopped in its tracks. There was already 6in of water in the companionway.
"We could actually see the break in the hull. Water was gushing into the cabin. There was no doubt about what had happened." Tina decided to leave the cabin immediately but John suggested she grab a swimming costume. She was glad she did, as that was all she escaped with.

"The dive guide mustered everyone on the top deck, where most of the passengers had spent the night sleeping under the stars. In four minutes or less it was waist-deep in water on the dive-deck. Then the boat started to lean over,"
"Thank goodness there was another boat nearby. We transferred in our own Zodiac to
Heaven Majesty. It felt like Coral Queen was going to sink at any moment. There was some mild panic for a moment."

Passenger Richard Milburn from St Bees in Cumbria said: "When the lights went out there was a slight moment of panic. We had bought some beer from Heaven Majesty the night before, so we knew rescue was near. Our own RIB had a leak and had been deflating all week. We were lucky that we got picked up. We wouldn't have lasted long in that.

"I went below to grab my passport but my cabin was already full of water and I had second thoughts. It would have been a thousand times worse if there had not been another boat standing by. We were doing our first dive each day at 5.30, which meant everyone was awake. The problem arose from moving the boat in the dark."

Paul Yates from Ramsgate was asleep in his cabin. "It was like a car collision. There was a huge bang, all the cabin cupboards opened and all the drawers flew out. I turned the light on and saw water coming up through the floorboards. Then it went very dark.

"I got out of my cabin and found the companionway full of broken wood. I knew we were sinking and rushed up to the dive deck, which was already under water. We were all disorientated because it happened so fast."

John Pluck from Warwick added that the captain had tried to reverse off "but we were stuck fast - which was probably lucky, because it gave us time to escape."
"I've never been on a liveaboard before," said Peter Mortiboy from London. "The really scary moment came when the rear part of the boat was under water and I thought my cabin-mate was still below in our cabin. Luckily he wasn't. As a landlubber, you tend to think of boats as being solid as a rock, but when they sink, they certainly go down fast."

Source: www.divernet.com


At 4:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucky escape! There are bad live-aboards with inexperienced crew out there, and we have to know how to pick a good one.


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