Two divers were saved by the AFM on Wednesday evening after the Gozo police informed the operations centre that a man and a woman had gone missing after having left Malta at 10:30am for a morning diving trip to Dwejra, in Gozo.
The Police raised the alarm after locating the divers' van parked at Dwejra with no diving equipment in it. The Police searched the area around the diving site from land but to no avail.
AFM rescue assets deployed within a very short time. An Aloutte III helicopter flew towards Dwejra whilst Search and Rescue boat Melita I braved the rough seas to also proceed on location. Patrol boat P32 was also put on standby at high readiness at Mgarr Harbour.
Police Officers on site informed the AFM that they could make out one individual on the edge of the inland sea area struggling to hold on to the cliffs, however, they were unable to pinpoint the exact position.
The helicopter rescue team led by Pilot S/Sgt Mark Cassar and rescuer swimmers Sgt Pepe D and Lance Bombardier Cassar P. managed to locate the two individuals despite the harsh weather conditions. They pulled the two divers to safety at approximately 1830 hrs in what was termed as a 'a very delicate air-sea operation' that involved helicopter manoeuvres close to the cliffs in winds of well over 22 knots and sea state conditions of Force 6 to 7 during low light visibility.
The male diver was rescued first and was transferred to an awaiting ambulance that took him straight to Gozo Hospital. Once the first rescue was affected, the AFM helicopter continued searching for the second missing female diver. After scouring the area once again in the limited light available, and with the helicopter now low on fuel and searching in almost pitch darkness, the rescue mission was about to be suspended when Sgt C. Psaila spotted what appeared to be the head of the diver barely visible in the waves. Once again an AFM rescue swimmer jumped into sea and managed to winch her safely onboard the helicopter and proceed directly to Gozo Hospital.
Both divers are reportedly in stable condition.
Commenting on the conduct of this operation, a senior AFM Officer praised the sheer guts and determination of the rescue team: "It is in real life situations like this, that one can really begin to appreciate the individual and team skill sets and qualities that are necessary to bring such rescue missions in perilous conditions to a successful end."