SNSM Rescuers proceed with the memorial service for the three rescuers who lost their life. Photo:Sebastian Solum-Gomes/AFP
The three local men died after their lifeboat capsized while they were coming to the assistance of a fisherman off the coast of Sables-d'Olonne, starting point for the round-the-world Golden Globe yacht race. Four other rescuers managed to swim to safety.
The body of the fisherman, a retiree who was shrimping to boost his pension, has not been found.
Thousands gathered for the memorial service. Photo:Sebastian Solum-Gomes/AFP
President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday posthumously awarded the volunteers the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest civilian honour. The accident was the deadliest to hit the French ocean rescue service SNSM in over 30 years and plunged the sea-faring community into mourning.
Moments before the boat capsized. Photo: Sebastian Solum-Gomes/AFP
A huge crowd took part in a silent march on Monday to the beach where the wrecked rescue boat was brought ashore. Many carried a single red or white rose which they planted in the sand.
Red and White roses laid down on the sand to pay tribute to the fallen rescuers. Photo: Sebastian Solum-Gomes/AFP
A large group of SNSM volunteers, wearing trademark luminous orange jackets led the march and were applauded by residents for their service.
Sailors and fishermen were also out in force, with a flotilla of around 100 boats, backed by a naval vessel, firing flares and sounding their sirens. Around 15,000 took part in the ceremony, according to local authorities.
SNSM rescuers, fishermen and sailors sail their boats out in tribute. Photo:Sebastian Solum-Gomes/AFP