The students of the University of Malaga (UMA) managed to swim to a boat that had brought them fuel and helped rescue the passengers who could
The 'Angy' boat, with capacity for 25 people, covered the Isabela-Puerto Ayora route and connected the two main islands of the Galapagos archipelago. This Sunday, for reasons that are still under investigation, the cabotage boat sank in the middle of the journey with 37 people on board. There are four dead and two missing.
Among the survivors are four students from the University of Malaga (UMA). Estefanía (26), Yaiza (23), Marina (23) and Ana (22) jumped into the water when the sea engulfed the boat, swam to another boat that had gone to supply them with fuel and helped rescue part of the passengers. This is how they relate the nightmare they have lived aboard the 'Angy'.
«We are students of the UMA (postgraduate). Marina, Yaiza and I are biologists and Ana, biochemist. They gave us an international cooperation scholarship (granted before the pandemic) and this year we have finally been able to go to our destination, which is the Biosafety Agency of the Galapagos Islands,” says Estefanía.
The archipelago is located about 1,000 kilometers from the coast of Ecuador and since 1979 it has held the title of Natural Heritage of Humanity due to its unique terrestrial and marine species. The English scientist Charles Darwin was inspired by them to develop his theory of evolution.
The group of researchers from Malaga works as volunteers in a project entitled 'Identification of invasive species that put flora, fauna and food at risk in the Galapagos Islands'. They are dedicated to the molecular identification of species. His volunteering began in August and ends at the end of October.
The four university students embarked this Sunday, September 25, on the cabotage boat to travel from Isabela Island to Santa Cruz, which is where the volunteer houses where they stay are.
"The ship left at 2:30 p.m. (local time), but it did not leave the port until after four o'clock due to a first failure in one of the three engines," says Estefanía. «Finally -continues the young woman- it was decided to continue with the journey without knowing very well if the problem was solved or not. The crew didn't give too many details either."
That afternoon there was a rough sea. According to his account, during the first two hours there were "engine failures" that left them adrift for minutes. The journey, which usually takes between two and two and a half hours, lasted almost three and a half hours.
From left to right, Yaiza, Ana, Estefanía and Marina, in the archipelago. /
«When we looked at the mobile, it was already 6:30 p.m. and it was getting dark. So, we ran out of gas. We were waiting 40 or 45 minutes for another boat that arrived and gave us fuel. The ship sailed again for 20 or 30 minutes. It was already totally dark and it was cloudy, ”continues the university student from Malaga.
The engine, which had already been warning them during the crossing, failed again. «Suddenly, Ana told us: 'The ship is sinking'. We were at the top and climbed as best we could towards the bow, which was the only thing left floating. In less than five minutes we found ourselves grabbing the metal railings," Estefanía describes.
The only way out they saw was to jump into the water and swim as fast as possible towards the boat that had brought them the fuel and which, seeing the situation, came over to help them. "We were among the first passengers to board," says the young woman from Malaga.
Estefanía dedicated herself -along with two of the sailors- to rescuing people from the water. “Everyone on board was in shock, that's why I reacted. I started throwing life jackets, buoys, floats... Everything that could help them, "adds the university student.
The young woman notices an important detail: «We were not wearing life jackets. Before getting on the boat (the 'Angy') I asked about them and they told me they were drying in the port," says Estefanía, who still doesn't know where she got the strength to get on people who weighed three times her weight and, furthermore, they had all wet clothes.
Her companions looked after the children while their parents boarded. “We were able to rescue 14 or 15 passengers. At first everyone was screaming, the children were crying... but my classmates took care of them and we tried to reassure everyone so that there would be no more nerves than those already left by the situation, "explains the young woman.
Unfortunately, not everyone was able to board the second boat. “By order of the captain, we returned to the port for fear that the ship would sink if we put the 37 passengers who were carrying the boat that had shipwrecked, which was of similar dimensions.”
Arriving at port, they were greeted with dry clothes and blankets to combat the cold. Local authorities began to investigate an event that, so far, has caused the deaths of four men: an American, a Colombian and two Ecuadorians. Two missing persons are still being searched for.
“Right now we are at the Charles Darwin Foundation, where they have prepared some beds for us so that we can all sleep together and with other volunteers. They brought us dinner, they made us tea and they have treated us incredibly well”, the young woman says goodbye, still shocked by the dramatic experience they have had to live.