'I could see fish swimming outside window': Brit tourist tells of battle to escape capsizing yacht on Egypt holiday

15 May 2023, 12:51 | Updated: 15 May 2023, 16:08

A British tourist who made a dramatic escape from a holiday yacht that sank in the Red Sea, reveals he first learned something was wrong "when I could see fish swimming outside my cabin room&squot;s window".
A British tourist who made a dramatic escape from a holiday yacht that sank in the Red Sea, reveals he first learned something was wrong "when I could see fish swimming outside my cabin room's window". Picture: YouTube/Alexander Derhaag

By Chris Samuel

A British tourist who made a dramatic escape from a holiday yacht that sank in the Red Sea, reveals he first learned something was wrong "when I could see fish swimming outside my cabin room's window".

The Carlton Queen yacht sank on April 24 after taking on water and rolling on its side near Sha'ab Abu Nuhas reef, off the coast of Hurghada, Egypt.

David Taylor, 53, who had been staying on the boat, has since spoken of coming to the "horrendous" realisation that the boat had capsized.

"We were shouting for help and heard crashing above us and had this deep feeling of dread that something terrible was happening," he said.

Mr Taylor and his son Christian, 21, then realised they couldn't escape using the stairwell, and that no help had come for them.

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"I had lost the plot," he said, "I felt I couldn’t protect my son and I started to panic.”

As the ship submerged, they were met by experienced Fernando Suarez Meilla, who crawled with them from room to room as they checked for anybody else who might be trapped onboard, The Telegraph reported.

Mr Suarez Meilla then gave Mr Taylor and Christian a leg up to the top deck after finding that handle on an emergency hatch was defective.

The vessel capsized in the Red Sea before sinking
The vessel capsized in the Red Sea before sinking. Picture: YouTube/Alexander Derhaag

The diver told the father and son to make their way to safety as he searched for an alternative escape route.

Mr Suarez Meilla eventually found an open hatch after swimming to the bottom of the boat, having found every other routes impossible.

Another Brit on the boat, 48-year-old Toby Meadows, from north London, said: “I was on the deck with my brother and we saw the boat was going over, so we darted across to the rails to straddle the side of the boat.”

Mr Meadows accused some members of the crew of abandoning ship and jumping into the life raft first, as people scrambled for safety.

Amazingly, all of the Carlton Queen's 26 guests, 15 of whom were British, and nine crew managed to escape, with three treated in hospital for minor injuries.

Guests had already been complaining about the vessel lurching from side to side prior to it rolling over, but their concerns were reportedly assuaged by the crew.

Mr Taylor said: “Something like this must not happen ever again, It can't happen again. We were assured it was safe but why would a refurbished new boat sink in calm conditions?”

Footage showed passengers stood on the side of the ship after it took on water
Footage showed passengers stood on the side of the ship after it took on water. Picture: YouTube/Alexander Derhaag

Passengers complained that they had not been offered compensation over the incident, but only a free holiday next year with the same firm.

Mr Suarez Meilla said there was no way he would be taking up the offer: “We have lost everything, money, telephones, passports, everything and they offer us the chance to come back again. No chance.”

The Carlton Fleet, which owned the boat, told the newspaper on Monday that it felt compelled to address "ill-founded reports" relating to the handling of the incident by its crew.

"Needless to say, the safe return of all those on board bears testament to the crew members’ effective management of the situation, which spared the lives of all passengers," the firm said.

All of the Carlton Queen's 26 passengers, 15 of whom were British, and nine crew managed to escape
All of the Carlton Queen's 26 passengers, 15 of whom were British, and nine crew managed to escape. Picture: YouTube/Alexander Derhaag

"Fortunately, and notwithstanding any sensationalist allegations made by some disgruntled guests, only three (3) divers sustained minor injuries that were treated in hospital at the company’s expense."

The company claimed that an offer to compensate guests for "additional amounts for inconvenience" was rejected as it had been subjected to "threats" for larger payments.

The firm said in a previous statement they were working with the Egyptian authorities to find out what caused the incident.

Divers who lost possessions have organised a fundraiser to replace lost equipment, as well as help them with medical and legal expenses.

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