News National Rescue mission for injured Indian sailor complete
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Rescue mission for injured Indian sailor complete

Abhilash Tomy sent a satellite text message on Saturday saying he could not walk. Photo: Facebook/Abhilash Tomy
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Rescuers on a French research vessel have reached the injured Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy, who was stranded in remote waters far off the Western Australian coast on Monday.

The Indian Navy on Monday evening tweeted “Tomy rescued safely”, after 39-year-old Abhilash Tomy’s 10-metre yacht Thuriya lost its mast in a storm on Friday.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority led the search for the Indian Navy commander, who was participating in the Golden Globe Race when the accident occurred about 1800 nautical miles (3300 kilometres) south-west of Perth.

Search-and-rescue officer Phil Gaden said the French fisheries patrol boat FPV Osiris was due to reach Mr Tomy on Monday afternoon.

“We do know he’s got a very severely injured back and we believe that he’s very severely restricted in his ability to manoeuvre. His mobility is affected,” Mr Gaden told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

“The yacht’s very badly damaged. It has been dismasted and we know the gear is hanging over the side.

“At the moment our indications are it is upright and floating high in the water, however at any moment a wave could push one of those damaged masts into the vessel.”

An Indian military plane spotted the damaged yacht Thuriya in the Indian Ocean. Photo: Facebook/Indian Navy

Mr Tomy, who has suffered a serious back injury that limited his movement, had earlier sent numerous satellite text messages including: “LUGGED CANS OF ICE TEA. HAVING THAT. VOMITTING CONTINUINGLY. CHEST BURNING”.

He had earlier written: “ACTIVATED EPIRB. CANT WALK. MIGHT NEED STRETCHER”.

A subsequent message read: “CAN MOVE TOES. FEEL NUMB. CAN’T EAT OR DRINK. TOUGH 2 REACH GRAB BAG”.

The damaged yacht was in Australia’s search-and-rescue zone, about 3000 kilometres south-east of the French island Reunion.

It’s believed the French sailors will assess Mr Tomy and take him to Ile Amsterdam, which has a small hospital but no airport big enough to take a fixed-wing aircraft.

Given the extent of his injuries he is likely to spend time on Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat, which will get there on Friday and can take him back to Perth.

Abhilash Tomy has suffered a severe back injury that restricts his movement. Photo: AAP/Nick Jaffe/PPL/GGR

Mr Gaden said the rescue conditions were about as good as they ever get in that part of the world.

“It’s one of the most remote areas on the planet, almost equidistant from any of the search-and-rescue facilities, so the fact we’ve got something there as quickly as we have is good news,” he said.

“He’s got a couple of small text message devices that he’s been able to get some information out on. We’re trying to limit those messages because the battery power is diminishing quickly.”

An Irish sailor, whose yacht also lost its mast as part of the Golden Globe yacht race, will also be picked up after the rescue as he is uninjured.

Mr Tomy became the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe when he achieved the feat in 2013, his website says.

Tomy’s yacht Thuriya was de-masted in a storm in the southern Indian Ocean. Photo: Golden Globe Race/Christophe Favreau

-with agencies