Spanish navy captain dies in Antarctica after falling overboard

Body of 53-year-old Javier Montojo Salazar recovered from sea near Livingstone Island.

The commander of a Spanish navy research ship has died in Antarctica after apparently falling overboard.

Javier Montojo Salazar, captain of the frigate Hespérides, disappeared on Friday night when the ship was near the Juan Carlos 1 research base on Livingstone Island.

Spain’s ministry of defence said a search and rescue operation was launched using “all available resources” but the body of the 53-year-old sailor was recovered from the sea six hours later.

“The captain’s remains are on the ship, which is bound for Usuahia, in Argentina, from where he will be repatriated,” the ministry said in a statement on Saturday. “His family has been informed and is being supported by a team of navy personnel.”

The government said its thoughts were with Montojo’s family. “My condolences to the family and colleagues of Javier Montojo Salazar, the captain of the oceanographic research vessel Hespérides who died in Antarctica,” said the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. “Sad news.”

The defence minister, María Dolores de Cospedal, also offered her condolences on Twitter. “Very sad news about the death of Captain Javier Montojo Salazar,” she wrote. “All my love and support to his family and colleagues. May he rest in peace.”

The Hespérides, which was launched in 1990, has a reinforced hull to allow it to operate in Antarctic and Arctic waters. It has been used in numerous research operations, covering more than 300,000 nautical miles and hosting more than 1,000 foreign researchers.

Spain has operated the Juan Carlos 1 research base since 1981. The facility, which helps support scientific research projects, is only staffed in the Antarctic summer, from mid-November to the beginning of March. It lies 20 nautical miles from Spain’s Gabriel de Castilla army base on Deception Island.

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