A BRITISH holiday couple were left bobbing in the ocean after their seaplane crashed in bad weather and the pilots swam off.
Thomas Markey, 26, and Sebastian Marczyk, 32, had sat through two aborted take-offs before being buffeted into the water on a third attempt off the Maldives.
As the 12 passengers tried to scramble out, they spotted the captain and co-pilot heading for the shore.
Thomas said: “They’d tied all the baggage against the designated fire exit and it was blocked. I turned round and shouted at the crew member at the back to open the door.
“Two or three minutes later everyone’s in the water without life jackets. I shouted, ‘Get the life jackets out’.
“But the one I was given was for a baby. The jackets were second-hand and some even expired in 2004. It’s a joke. There was no safety protocol, no instructions.”
No one was badly injured and the passengers climbed on top of the plane and its wings.
A boat rescue came 20 minutes later from Dhoores island.
Thomas and Sebastian, of Chester, were at the end of a ten-day holiday when they boarded the 1969 de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter to main island Male last week.
Thomas added: “After the second aborted take-off, that should’ve been the point we stopped or waited ten minutes for the weather to calm down.
“But the pilots were being too cocky. The next thing we’d nosedived into the ocean.”
Aviation investigators and police interviewed passengers.
The pilots were made to provide urine samples.
Thomas and Sebastian are suing the state-owned Maldivian Airlines.
It is the third seaplane crash on the islands in six months.
Last night the Maldivian Government apologised for the incident, insisting it happened on the first take off attempt.
They also denied witness accounts the captain and his co-pilot left passengers stranded.
A spokesman added: “The pilots were forced to take swift action – in accordance with the airlines emergency procedures – due to unexpected rough weather.
“The crew were the last to leave the scene, after overseeing the safe evacuation of passengers by the Maldivian Coast Guard to nearby Dhoores Island. Once on shore, the travellers were given all the necessary medical treatment they required.
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“All procedures and protocol were followed, including an initial safety demonstration before take-off. The necessary emergency equipment was on board, including valid life jackets appropriate to the aircraft type and customers.
“There were no impediments to quick evacuation from the aircraft’s six exits.”
The incident is under investigation by Accident Investigation Coordination Committee of Maldives.