Brits escape capsizing yacht in Egypt’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’

A dream diving holiday turned into a harrowing nightmare after a group of 16 Brits found themselves in a race against time to escape a sinking ship.

Dr Christian Hanson, and a group of friends from his diving club in Moraira – including the Brits and 10 Europeans – chartered a 137ft yacht so they could go diving in the Red Sea, off Egypt.

On what should have been the trip of a lifetime diving from Abu Nuhas to Shag Rock, their charter, the Carlton Queen, suddenly capsized.

The shocking incident took place on Monday April 24 in a section of the sea reportedly known as the Egyptian “Bermuda Triangle” when Dr Hanson and a number of others became trapped inside the ship as it began to roll over. They found themselves caught in a terrifying race against time to escape, before the ship filled up with water and left them facing the prospect of drowning.

According to a report in The Mirror, the 49-year-old software engineer from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, had no clue if his wife, Michelle, had been able to escape. Dr Hanson had been filling out his logbook with two other divers, Helen Merchant and Rob Janssens, after seeing dolphins in the water that morning, when they were suddenly tossed backwards off their seats.

Dr Hanson said: “It was going to be a nice easy crossing… we were discussing the dive then all of a sudden there’s a massive sway in the boat and the tables move towards us and we have to lift our legs up to avoid it crashing into us.

“Then the boat sways a long way the other way… very significantly the other way… it kind of jolts and shudders and we were thrown off the chairs backwards onto the windows.

“The boat’s tipped to about 40 degrees, you can see the bubbles in the water whizzing past the windows that we’re now stood on, the pressure of the water was jetting water through the cracks around the window too.”

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The trio were now trapped inside the salon, with heavy glass doors that opened outwards above them. They knew that if water began filling up on top of them they would be trapped there, with no means of escape.

Dr Hanson said they realised then, that they had to get out quickly. Barefoot, Helen and Rob were unable to climb up the room – now on its side – and it wasn’t until a sofa, previously fixed in place, became detached, that Dr Hanson was able to climb up the room using it as a makeshift ladder.

From there, he jumped on to a cupboard, bringing him close enough to reach the door. But as the trio desperately scrambled to escape, water began pouring in beneath them, with the ship threatening to turn further or sink completely.

Just then they heard screams coming from two crewmates — father and son David, 53, and Christian, 21 — who were also trapped. Dr Hanson smashed open the salon door, and as he did so, Helen and Rob were able to work together to get Rob up and on to the cupboard.

From there, the two men grabbed Helen and hauled her clear of the rising water. But the water, originally three metres below them, quickly surged.

Dr Hanson said: “All the time we must’ve been thinking if this boat turns over we’ll be dead… the windows could’ve shattered, there were so many ways that could’ve trapped us in there.

“I see my wife [once they had escaped the salon] and Rob says ‘go-go-go’ and I’m swimming to her.”

But as he swam across the sinking ship, the dive tanks, once on a wall, were now suspended above his head, held in place by small belts.

However, they made it out to the life rafts alive, thanks to their clear thinking and quick action.

Dr Hanson stressed to The Mirror that had those on board not been experienced divers, there could easily have been fatalities.

A number of the divers claimed that they were left unimpressed with the crew and captain, who were first into liferafts, adding that they did nothing to help as the ship went down.

Dr Hanson said some were praying while the others remained inactive, leaving the divers to save themselves.

What followed were days of chaos as the divers fought to get some compensation for having lost all their belongings, and passports, which sank to the bottom of the Red Sea.

They were eventually able to travel home days later using emergency documents, but have still been left with little long-term help from the touring company. 

Dr Hanson later said that he had been left wondering if the ship was seaworthy even before the drama unfolded. In the days before April 24, he said he and a few fellow divers felt that the ship had been tilting to one side.

But the Captain and crew assured them that as the ship was new, it had not yet taken on enough water to stablise it.

When approached for comment on the incident, Carlton Fleet said it was “deeply saddened”, but claimed the ship had been “fit for operations as confirmed by technical reports”.

It also claimed that reports about the crew’s handling of the situation was “ill-founded” and that they had saved the lives of everyone on board – something the divers contested strongly.

However, a fleet spokesman insisted that all safety protocols had been followed. The fleet did not give any further responses to additional questions from reporters.

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