• There were four officials in the helicopter when it crashed Monday
  • They were visiting a shipwreck site
  • General Serge Gelle was rescued by a fisherman Tuesday 

A government official in Madagascar has managed to swim for around 12 hours to safety after a helicopter carrying him and other officials crashed in the Indian Ocean. They were flying to inspect a shipwreck site.

General Serge Gelle, Madagascar's minister for police, was rescued by a fisherman who found him around 500 feet away from the shore in Mahambo, a town on the northeastern coast of the country. Gelle was brought to the shore in a canoe Tuesday morning, Al Jazeera reported.

"My turn to die has not yet come, thank God. I'm well. I'm just cold," Gelle said in a video posted on Twitter by the island nation's defense ministry. "But I'm sad because I don't know if my friends are alive."

There were four officials, including Gelle, in the helicopter when it crashed Monday. They were visiting the site of a cargo ship that sank off Madagascar's northeastern coast, killing 64 people. The cargo ship was illegally transporting around 138 people when it sank Monday, according to reports.

Gelle said he was seated behind the pilot inside the helicopter. "Not having a life jacket, I unfastened the seat and used it as a buoy. I stayed calm and took off anything heavy I was carrying like my boots and belt. I did everything to stay alive," Gelle said in the video, New York Post reported.

After swimming for around 12 hours, Gelle reached close to the shore, but the strong waves sent him back to the sea. The official was getting tired of fighting the strong waves when the fisherman spotted him.

"I thank heaven that there was a fisherman. But the fisherman's canoe was too small. So he had to come back for a bigger canoe. So I stayed two more hours in the sea," Gelle added.

Another passenger on the crashed helicopter, Chief Warrant Officer Jimmy Laitsara, also swam to the beach in Mahambo. However, the pilot and another passenger are still missing.

Gelle said gusts of wind had destabilized the helicopter, leading to the crash. However, officials have not determined the exact cause of the helicopter crash.

Nosy Be, Madagascar
Nosy Be, Madagascar creative commons/rita willaert