Will Darrol Hansen’s body be returned to the hard? Nobody seems to know

Police remain tight-lipped over the possibility of recovering the body of Darrol Hansen, the maverick sailor who died last month while sailing from Cape Town to Mossel Bay in an unseaworthy yacht.

Hansen’s body was found lying inside the cabin of his yacht Panacea when NSRI first located the vessel floating about 60 nautical miles offshore. However the body was lost along with the vessel after NSRI were forced to drop a tow line despite a valiant recovery effort.

SAPS are still busy with their inquiry and sent a team out to sea to investigate the possibility of a salvage operation with police divers. To date there has been no announcement regarding whether this will be feasible.

The NSRI meanwhile have published a detailed summary of their attempted rescue, which began with a massive search operation involving an Air Force Oryx helicopter. “An NSRI Airborne rescue swimmer was deployed from the helicopter into the sea, he swam to and boarded the yacht where he found the sailor deceased below decks,” the NSRI said in an initial press release. A signaling beacon was placed on the yacht, allowing the NSRI Stilbaai duty crew to later return to the vessel which by then had drifted to about 30 nautical miles south east of Stibaai. “The yacht was found to have sustained some water intake and damage,” the NSRI said.

Foul weather forced the Stilbaai crew release the tow and return to base, but a second team from NSRI Mossel Bay were dispatched early Sunday morning with a view to towing Panacea to Mossel Bay. “The yacht was found to have sustained significant water intake,” the NSRI said. “NSRI Mossel Bay set up a water extrication pump, established a towline and initiated towing the sailing yacht towards Mossel Bay. While towing the yacht towards Mossel Bay additional water flooded the yacht.”

A second NSRI vessel was then launched from Mossel Bay to provide an additional water extrication pump, but the yacht sunk before the pump could be deployed despite the best efforts of three NSRI rescue swimmers to keep her afloat.

“NSRI members, who have known the family for many years, have paid tribute to the life of Darrol Hansen,” the NSRI said.

Mystery surrounds the circumstances of Hansen’s death. The 60-year-old sailor, who barely survived a 2014 accident when his previous yacht was wrecked near Oyster Bay, was apparently determined to sail to Mossel Bay after acquiring and provisioning Panacea in Saldanha where local sailors advised against the voyage. Maritime officials also attempted to impound the vessel in Cape Town when Hansen called at the Royal Cape Yacht Club for repairs. But he slipped out of the Port and continued his voyage before anybody could stop him. He took off without an AIS, which meant maritime authorities could not track him. It was only when he never arrived in Mossel Bay amidst a severe storm that his family raised the alarm.

Hansen, who had a prosthetic leg on account of a motorbike accident 17 years ago, was a competent sailor who was widely known as ‘The Viking’.

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