Canal deaths: What the sea tracking data tells us about the rescue | UK News

Survivors of the canal tragedy have claimed that French and British authorities did not respond to calls for help and disagreed on who was responsible – Sky News has analyzed marine data to see how emergency preparedness developed.

Twenty-seven people died when the boat capsized, and two survivors have said the group waited hours in the dark for help that eventually came too late.

Using the authorities’ version of events along with data from MarineTraffic.com and details from two survivors, we have put together the following timeline.

The group begins their journey on Tuesday, November 23, on an inflatable boat – described as an “explosion basin” by the French interior minister – around 1 p.m. 20.00 at Loon-Plage, between Dunkirk and Calais.

The boat quickly develops problems and begins to empty, forcing people to pump air while others drain water, according to one of the survivors.

He once said between 6 p.m. 2.15 and 2.45 on Wednesday 24 November that the engine also stopped working.

At 3am, tracking data shows that both the UK and France have boats in the water between Calais and Dover. There is nothing that currently knows that there is a boat in trouble. HMC Valiant and Flamant from the French Navy are eight miles (12.9 km) apart. At the same time, a French fishing boat, Saint Jacques II, is heading north. It will later become a central part of this story.

Image: MarineTraffic.com
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At 03.00 the British boat HMC Valiant and Flamant from the French fleet are in the canal. Image: MarineTraffic.com

Forty-five minutes later, the British Coast Guard helicopter from Lydd in Kent is also in the Channel.

British authorities asked the group to send the location of the boat, a survivor said, but “we did not have the chance and all mobile phones fell into the water”.

Without any precise location, a small boat in the darkness of the canal would have been very difficult to distinguish from the air.

There is a hole in what we know until daylight, when the French fishing boat Saint Jacques II discovers the dinghy at. 12.58 and reports that bodies are immobile in the sea.

Photo: Yves Le Rousseau
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The French fishing boat Saint Jacques II spotted the dinghy. Photo: Yves Le Rousseau

With the site identified, the French Coast Guard at Gris-Nez, 19 km west of Calais, reports the incident to the British Coast Guard.

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The French fishing boat Saint Jacques II was the first to spot the dinghy. Image: MarineTraffic.com

At the same time, a broader picture shows exactly where the rescue effort was focusing on.

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Wider image showing search position. Image: MarineTraffic.com

Flamant from the French navy was about two miles away (3.2 km) from the fishing boat Saint Jacques II.

French naval vessel Flamant
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French naval vessel Flamant. Marked ‘French warship’. Photo: Yves Le Rousseau

The Border Force boat Hunter is in British territorial waters at the time and just over four miles (6.4 km) from the French fishing boat, according to MarineTraffic.com.

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The UK Border Force boat Hunter is in British territorial waters just over 4 miles from the Mayday site. Image: MarineTraffic.com

At 13.06, the French Coast Guard at Griz-Nez sends out a Mayday call, and it provides the coordinates for the rescuers to go to. The location is just within French territorial waters.

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GPS location from the Mayday signal broadcast by the French Coast Guard. Credit: Marineregions.org

A number of vessels are within five nautical miles, including a British trawler and four French fishing boats.

Image: MarineTraffic.com
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A number of boats are within 5 miles of the Mayday position – circle shows five miles from the GPS coordinates. Image: MarineTraffic.com

Four minutes later, at 13.10, the British helicopter takes off from Lydd, and at 13.20 the French coastguard boat Escaut starts from Dunkirk.

At 14.05 the French lifeboat Notre Dame Du Risban starts from Calais.

The rescue effort continues throughout the afternoon with several French boats and the British search and rescue helicopter.

RNLI’s boat from Ramsgate launches after kl.

But after hours of exposure to the cold from the Channel, almost the entire group died.

Charles Devos, from the French lifeboat Notre Dame Du Risban, told Sky News drew many drowned corpses from the sea and that the boat was reduced to a piece of emptied plastic.

Photo: Eric Patigny
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French lifeboat Notre Dame Du Risban launched from the port of Calais. Photo: Eric Patigny

“The boat was overwhelmed. The sight of these people drowned and then they had to be retrieved … it was traumatic,” he said.

Twenty-seven bodies were found – many of their identities still need to be revealed.

Among them was a young Kurdish woman, Baran Nouri Mohammedameen, who was hoping to join her fiancé in the UK.

The 24-year-old did not tell him that she was about to board a boat until the last minute.

In a statement, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said on the day of the tragedy that it received more than 90 alarms in the canal and responded to them all.

“HM Coastguard does not routinely enter French waters unless asked to help with a response from our search and rescue partners in France, as we were last week (November 24).

“On that occasion, we sent HM Coastguard’s helicopter from Lydd to support the search and rescue effort, and the RNLI lifeboat from Ramsgate also participated in the search.”

The Home Office says the incident was in French waters and the British Coast Guard provided assistance “as soon as requested” by the French.

France, meanwhile, says it launched a comprehensive response, which sent three boats to the site, and that two helicopters were also involved – a French naval aircraft and one from Britain.


The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled entity dedicated to delivering transparent journalism from Sky News. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced digital analysis of datasets, satellite images, social media postings and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling, we aim to better explain the world, while at the same time showing how our journalism takes place.

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