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Update 3 | Third body as search for missing French tourists continues

Three bodies found, believed to form part of the French group reported missing yesterday afternoon.

Staff Reporter
7 May 2013, 12:00am


Update 3 at 08:45



As the AFM's search for a missing group of French tourists continues,

a third body has been found off Comino in the ongoing search for five French tourists who were reported missing on Monday afternoon.

The corpse of a man was found in the south Comino channel this morning by an army helicopter and is in the process of being identified.

The discovery follows that of two female bodies found in the sea off Fomm ir-Rih yesterday afternoon, the police said.



The two were hoisted from the sea by an Italian Military Mission helicopter and they are believed to form part of the five people - four adults and a boy. The bodies were found wearing life jackets. The five tourists- Marie Grimaud, 38, Sandrine Gaudet, 36, Philippe Grimaud, 41, Elias Chnouni, 49 and his son Eli, 14 - were last seen on a small boat as they departed from Xlendi at about midnight on Sunday night.



The AFM said the bodies were found at 4:42pm near a capsized boat.

An Italian Military Mission helicopter engaged in the search for 5 persons reported missing yesterday was directed to the scene where it arrived at 5pm and confirmed the sighting.

The helicopter crew recovered the two bodies which were identified to be those of two deceased females.

Further searches are being mounted to locate any further potential survivors or victims. Search efforts thus far have yielded limited results with a life jacket having been located but no further persons.

Five French nationals were yesterday reported missing from a yacht which was anchored off Gozo's coast.

The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) were informed by the Victoria Police Station and a rescue mission was initiated.

A Spanish man called at the police station on Monday at 4:30 pm, saying that the five persons; two men, two women and a 15-year-old boy, were missing from aboard the yacht of which he was the master. 

Throughout the day, the Armed Forces of Malta have continued with search efforts to locate the five persons reported missing yesterday afternoon.

The search has been somewhat hampered by heavy sea conditions including up to 35 knots of wind. Assets assigned to the operation include the AFM's King Air Maritime Patrol Aircraft as well as an Alouette III helicopter which conducted thorough searches in the area South and South West of the Maltese Islands. 

Covering a total of 1000 square nautical miles the AFM's search efforts were complemented by further deployments of the Italian Military Mission Helicopter (AB212).

With a view to generating the maximum search effort possible during daylight hours, RCC Malta has requested the participation of a P3 Orion Aircraft from the US Navy 6th Fleet stationed in Sicily and an Italian Coast Guard P166 Aircraft based out of Catania Airport.

Both these aircraft are currently conducting search flights under the command of the AFM's Rescue Coordination Centre in Luqa.

No significant sightings have been reported by any of the assets involved in search efforts nor by any other shipping in the area.

The five were reported to have left the yacht, 'El Pirata', which was anchored in the vicinity of Dwejra previous evening.

The five individuals had embarked aboard the yacht's 4 meter tender and made their way towards Xlendi Bay to have dinner in one of the restaurants.

Investigations conducted by the Police in Xlendi confirmed that the persons had indeed landed in Xlendi and had dined at one of the restaurants there. A witness observed their departure from Xlendi at around midnight.

However, the French nationals never returned to the 'El Pirata' and the master of the yacht initially attempted to search for the missing persons himself before making his report to the authorities.

After being alerted, two AFM vessels were dispatched to investigate with the Gozo Patrol vessel, P32 commencing an initial search within minutes. The search is also being conducted by an AFM helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft.

The AFM is liaising closely with MRCC Gris Nez in France to keep the French authorities informed of the progress of search efforts.

Any persons who may have information pertinent to this case are encouraged to contact RCC Malta on 22494202, the AFM said.

 
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James Patton
The story above refers to Wednesday's News, can we have a recent update on what is a very sensitive and relevent piece of information.
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