Thousands pay emotional farewell to French ocean rescue volunteers killed in storm

Sebastien Salom-Gomis, AFP | SNSM rescuers look at fishermen and sailors sailing their boat on June 10, 2019 in Les Sables-d'Olonne, in tribute to three rescuers killed on June 7.

Thousands of people packed a seafront promenade in western France on Monday to pay their respects to three ocean rescue volunteers killed in a storm last week.


The three local men died after their lifeboat capsized while they were coming to the assistance of a fisherman off the coast of Sables-d’Olonne, starting point for the round-the-world Golden Globe yacht race.

Four other rescuers managed to swim to safety.

The body of the fisherman, a retiree who was shrimping to boost his pension, has not been found.

President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday posthumously awarded the volunteers the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honour.

The accident was the deadliest to hit the French ocean rescue service SNSM in over 30 years and plunged the sea-faring community into mourning.

A huge crowd took part in a silent march on Monday to the beach where the wrecked rescue boat was brought ashore. Many carried a single red or white rose which they planted in the sand.

A large group of SNSM volunteers, wearing trademark luminous orange jackets led the march and were applauded by residents for their service.

Sailors and fishermen were also out in force, with a flotilla of around 100 boats, backed by a naval vessel, firing flares and sounding their sirens.

Around 15,000 took part in the ceremony, according to local authorities.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning