Mumbai: In Egyptian mythology, Osiris is referred to as the God of life, death, the flooding of the Nile and the afterlife. Navy Commander Abhilash Tomy's mid-ocean rescue by the French fishing vessel 'Osiris' proved just that, giving the sailor a new lease of life.
Cdr Tomy's 32-feet long sailboat Thuriya first braved the wrath of the sea and gusty winds, leading to at least one toppling. The sailor may have been inside when the toppling happened, injuring his back, his mentor and race manager Cdr (retd) Dilip Donde said.
"While the vessel stabilized after the toppling, the solo occupant was far from normal. The injuries made him immobile and request for evacuation through a satellite-based communication gadget," he said.
For the next three days, Cdr Tomy drifted in the boat in the vast Indian Ocean, sans any help. The only contact with the outside world was through sporadic text messages through satellite and a GPS transmitter which gave his location to a race control room in France.
Organisers of the Golden Globe Race (GGR) contacted the Australian rescue authorities, who found out about Osiris' presence in the vicinity. It reached Thuriya two days later and rescued Cdr Tomy, in an act befitting the credentials of mythological figure.
"Osiris" was once a fishing boat from Seychelles, an island country located to the east of Africa. The boat was seized by the French Navy in 2003 and was turned into a patrol boat for France.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the commander is "conscious and doing okay" after his ordeal.
Navy spokesperson Capt D K Sharma said French fishing vessel Osris, assisted by Indian Navy's P8I surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, reached close to Thuriya around 1130 hrs (IST) and carried out a successful rescue operation using a small boat.
"Cdr Tomy was rescued by a boat and rescue team from Osiris. The rescue team shifted Cdr Tomy in a stretcher from Thuriya to Osiris using their Gemini boat. He has been reported to be conscious and has been provided with initial medical care," he said.
Indian Naval ship Satpura has been sent to bring the commander, a Kirti Chakra awardee, back to India.
According to rescue officer Phil Gaden in Australia, Tomy had a severely injured back. "We believe that he's very severely restricted in his ability to manoeuvre, his mobility is affected,? Gaden said.
Tomy was in the third position in the race and sailed over 10,500 nautical miles in the last 84 days, since July 1 when the competition began.
On Sunday, he managed to get in touch with the organisers of the race in France through messages and requested for help as he could not move on his own. "A sense of relief to know that naval officer @abhilashtomy is rescued by the French fishing vessel. He's conscious and doing okay. The vessel will shift him to a nearby island (I'lle Amsterdam) by evening. INS Satpura will take him to Mauritius for medical attention," Sitharaman tweeted.
Back home in Kerala, Tomy's family heaved a sigh of relief. "Praise the Lord. I am so happy...," V C Tomy, a retired Naval personnel himself, told mediapersons at his home in Udayamperoor in Thrippunithura near Kochi.
Tomy senior said he was confident his son will make a comeback to adventure sports. "He may be physically weak but he will be mentally stable. He will come back. I have full confidence in him, he said.
The family is preparing to go to Australia to meet the pilot in the Indian Navy, who has covered 52,000 miles under sail, including a solo non-stop circumnavigation from Mumbai and back in 2012-13.