Yaiza, Ana, Estefanía and Marina, taking part in an environmental project in the Galapagos. / sur

Malaga university students survive Galapagos Islands boat accident in which four people died

There were 37 people on board the boat, licenced to carry 25 passengers, which suffered engine problems and ran out of fuel before taking on water and sinking

J. CANO / A. ORTÍN Malaga

Four students at Malaga university were among the survivors of an accident in the Galapagos Islands when the boat on which they were travelling sank with 37 people on board on Sunday. The Angy, which operates between the two biggest islands in the archipelago, Isabela and Puerto Ayora, is supposed to carry a maximum of 25 passengers. Four people died in the accident and two are missing.

After their ordeal, the postgraduate students – Estefanía (26), Yaiza (23), Marina (23) and Ana (22) – explained what had happened. “The boat was supposed to leave at 2.30pm but it didn’t set off until 4 because there was a fault in one of the engines,” said Estefanía. “In the end they decided to leave even though they didn’t really know whether the problem had been solved or not. The crew didn’t tell us much”.

The sea was rough that afternoon. During the first two hours of the journey the engine failed again and the boat was drifting for 20 minutes. The trip normally takes about two and half hours but after three and a half they were still en route.

“When we looked at our phones, it was already 6.30 and getting dark. Then we ran out of petrol. We had to wait about 45 minutes for another boat to come and supply us with some. We set off again for 20 or 30 minutes, and it was completely dark by then and very cloudy,” Estefanía said.

The engine kept failing, and then: “Ana suddenly said "we're sinking!". We were on the top and we climbed down as best we could to the bow, which was the only part above water,” she said.

The boat which had supplied the Angy with fuel headed back to help, and the girls jumped into the sea and swam to it. With two of the crew, Estefanía began to rescue others.

"Everyone was in shock, I was throwing them life-jackets, buoys, floats, everything I could find which might help them,” she said.

Nobody who had been on board the Angy was wearing a life-jacket. The girls said they had asked for some but were told they were drying out in the port. Estefanía said she has no idea where she found the strength to pull people who weighed three times as much as she does out of the water, especially as they were wearing wet clothes.

They rescued 14 or 15 people, including children, but not everyone was able to board the second boat. “The Captain ordered the crew to return to port because he was afraid this one would sink as well if it had all 37 people on board,” Estefanía said.

The authorities are carrying out an investigation and have confirmed that the four people who died were all men: one from the USA, one from Columbia and two from Ecuador. The search continues for the two people who are still missing.