Fatalities at sea down 5%, but “still too high” in number, says Cross Med

There were 33 fatalities and over 3,000 callouts along France’s Mediterranean coast this summer. The numbers are down on 2022’s disastrous season, but “still too high” according to regional search and rescue service CROSS MED.  

Between 1st May and 30th September 2023, the Mediterranean branch of France’s Centres Régionaux Opérationnels de Surveillance et de Sauvetage, known as CROSS MED, was called out to 3,026 incidents at sea. 

From jet ski and boating accidents to dangerous diving incidents and drownings, some 223 people were seriously injured and a further 33 ultimately lost their lives.  

The figures are down compared to 2022, a summer season in which CROSS MED recorded 3,258 callouts, 5% more deaths and 15% more serious injuries, but are “still too high” according to the regional search and rescue service.  

“The worrying increase in accidents recorded [since 2019] seems to have stopped,” says Maritime Prefect for the Mediterranean and Vice-Admiral Gilles Boidevezi. “We nevertheless remain at a very high plateau.”  

An increase in diving accidents

Boidevezi points to a lack of caution and awareness as causes for the elevated statistics over the last few years, noting a “somewhat worrying increase” in diving accidents in particular, which were higher in 2023 than in 2022

There were 149 diving-related accidents – 122 of them with tanks – and a large proportion of them involved inexperienced or otherwise unprepared divers.  

“We are seeing people over the age of 50, who are not particularly sporty, embarking on complex dives at 30 metres depth,” Boidevezi adds, while calling on diving clubs to be more vigilant when organising excursions.  

New fads, such as rentals of underwater propulsion devices like Seabobs, have also contributed to the higher-than-usual accident rates recorded in recent summers as users go out on the open water without a life jacket.  

“Better sharing of space”, more respect for regulations and increased awareness of personal safety measures are required, the Maritime Prefect argues, in order to reduce accident and mortality rates further.  


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Photo source: Justin Heap, Unsplash