Family relieved as injured Navy officer rescued after international efforts

Sep 25, 2018, 07:40 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

'Rolled Dis mastered sustained severe back injury,' was the only message that the sailor's family received from the organiser of the Golden Globe Race

Family relieved as injured Navy officer rescued after international efforts
Valliara Tomy

After days of anxious uncertainty, the Tomy household has finally breathed a sigh of relief. A phone call from the organiser of the Golden Globe Race confirmed that Cdr Abhilash Tomy has been rescued, and has suffered a back injury. His father, Lt. Cdr. (retired) Valliara Tomy, 67, shared that the family was unable to function since the news of the mishap broke on Friday. 'Rolled Dis mastered sustained severe back injury,' was the only message that Valliara received from the organiser of the Golden Globe Race.

The phone call came three days after news of the mishap had rocked their lives. Both Valliara and his wife Valsamma, have been praying for the safety of their 39-year-old son. "We got the news about his rescue this (Monday) afternoon. His mother and I have not been able to eat properly since we learnt about the mishap. We were praying for his safety and our prayers have been heard," said Valliara, who was a Naval police officer, and even in-charge of NOFRA police station at Navy Nagar.

Safety first
When mid-day asked Valliara if was able to speak to his rescued son, the 67-year-old retired naval officer replied in the negative. "We are not worried about his returning to India. We are aware that he is fine and has been rescued. We just want him to receive medical treatment immediately," said a relieved father from their house in Kandanad, near Tripunithura, Kerala. The last time Valliara spoke to his son was on June 30, a brief chat before he left India to participate in the race. "We did not hear from him, until last Friday, when we were told about the mishap."

Rescue operation
Abhilash's younger brother Anish works for an IT firm in Australia, and even he has not been able to speak to Abhilash or the rescue team. "This is a rescue operation involving a larger team and coordination between Australian, France and Indian Navy and the rescue team. They will not allow us to speak to Abhilash at this stage unless he is brought to land and then taken to the hospital."

An emotional Valliara said, "If the authorities are admitting Abhilash in a hospital in Australia, we both would want to fly to Australia, as we have our son Anish based there. However, if he is taken to Mauritius or any other country, it will be difficult for us." A native of Kerala, who has been known to the family for a long time, said, "Abhilash had planned an aerial circumnavigation long ago, but for some technical reason he could not do it. He even underwent training for the same."

Interestingly, Abhilash tied the knot with Urmi, a Goa-based graphic designer, just few weeks before he left for France on July 1 to take participate in the race. Urmi had accompanied Abhilash to France to see him off. Valliara said, "Let us pray for his speedy recovery. After this voyage, he was to settle in his life."

Naval support
Captain D K Sharma, spokesperson and PRO (Navy), Indian Navy, said, "Indian Navy is truly indebted to all the agencies involved in the rescue operation of Cdr Abhilash Tomy especially the Australian Navy, French Fisheries Patrol Vessel Osiris, and its crew for being the first to reach Tomy, Defence Ministry in India etc."

He added, "Tomy has been rescued and is recuperating in the sick bay (medical room) of Patrol Vessel Osiris, where he had food and water. He is at present on medication. Indian Naval Ship (INS) Satpura, is on its way to pick him up, and is expected to reach Osiris by Thursday or Friday.

As the weather is not good we will decide to bring him to Ile Amsterdam or air lift him to Mauritius, depending on the comfort level of Abhilash." Commodore Dilip Donde, former Indian Navy officer, said, "I am relieved that Abhilash has been rescued and we hope he recovers soon. Once he is fit and fine, he will surely join such races in the future."

Naval background
Cdr Abhilash Tomy was born on February 5, 1979 in Chengannacherry, Kerala. Abhilash's father was also a naval officer. He completed his schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya-II, Kochi before joining the Naval Academy at Goa as a cadet in 1996. Abhilash graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999. After a year of sea training on ships, he was commissioned into the Indian Navy as an officer. Soon, he volunteered for the Naval Aviation wing. He spent a year training with the Indian Air Force before rejoining duties with the Navy where he went on to serve on board various ships and air squadrons.

Statement issued by the race organiser

  • The French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris reached Tomy's yacht at 05:30 UTC and transferred him to the ship. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre reported: "Tomy is conscious, talking and onboard the Orisis. Australian and Indian long range P8 Orion reconnaissance aircraft are circling overhead. Thuriya's position is 39 32.79S and 78 3.29E
  • Weather conditions are favourable. A radio briefing was held between the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre on Reunion Island, a doctor located on Amsterdam Island, and the master of the Osiris before the French crew boarded Thuriya from Zodiac inflatable boats to administer immediate first-aid and assess his condition.
  • Abhilash Tomy, 39, is a Commander in the Indian Navy and has been confined to his bunk, unable to move since his yacht was rolled through 360° and dismasted in a vicious Southern Ocean storm last Friday.
  • Fellow GGR skipper Gregor Mcguckin whose yacht Hanley Energy Endurance was also dismasted in the same storm last week, is making 2.2 knots towards Thuriya's position, sailing under jury rig. The 32-year old Irishman is still 25 miles to the West and in radio contact with the reconnaissance aircraft. He is not in distress but has asked for a controlled evacuation from his yacht.

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