Cargo Boat Accident Kills 83, Sends Rescuer On 12-Hour Swim After Helicopter Crash

A series of events as unfortunate as any Lemony Snicket novel

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Generally, when offered the chance to sail the seas on a cargo ship, you would be smart to hold off until someone offers you a spot on a boat built for human passengers. When you are not given the choice, however, keep an eye out for how many people are filling up the ship — lest you end up like the 138 passengers of the Francia.

On Monday the Francia, a cargo ship not designed to transport passengers, sank off the coast of Madagascar. A representative of the country’s Maritime and River Port Agency spoke to CNN, and gave some details on the accident:

Fifty people have been rescued and five are still missing, a spokesperson for the Maritime and River Port Agency (APMF) told CNN. The boat, which was carrying 138 people, sank late on Monday night, according to the APMF.

The vessel, a cargo ship named “Francia,” was not authorized to transport people, the APMF spokesperson said.

The boat was overloaded and water flooded the engine, APMF’s director of operations at sea Mamy Randrianavony said, according to Reuters.


When rescue helicopters were sent to help the survivors, one also crashed due to heavy winds. That left General Serge Gelle, head of Madagascar’s national Gendarmerie, with a 12-hour swim to shore.

For some context, 12 hours is about 48 times as long as I’ve ever consistently swam in my life. The average swimmer moves at about 2 mph in water, meaning if Gelle swam consistently he would have covered 24 miles in one go. That’s over 772 Olympic swimming pool lengths, or just under two Nürburgring Nordschleifes. Caeleb Dressel, the fastest swimmer in the world, would still take over four hours at peak speed to go that distance.


Those same heavy winds have put a pause on any recue efforts for the passengers of the Francia. They’re expected to resume today, by which time Gelle could well have already made his way to the wreck and back. Though, after a swim that long, I wouldn’t blame him if he wanted to spend some time on dry land.