The tragedy of the Tancón Cave He left an image to remember: a local policeman perched on a step of the slippery basalt walls of the nozzle subject to one of the wounds while bathers help to remove it from that hole with a rope and a life preserver. The agent is Edwin Gorrín González, belonging to the Local Police of Santiago del Teide. Born 41 years ago in Arguayo, in the same municipality of Santiago, Edwin was the first member of the rescue operation to arrive at the Tancón after the first notice was given on Thursday at 7:26 pm that several people were in distress.
«I was working with a colleague when they told us. I took the bike to get there as fast as possible». When he reached the cave, just below the Hotel Barceló Santiago, and some people who were at that point on the coast of Puerto Santiago they cared for two women affected by a sea stroke when they bathed in the dangerous spout. «There was a great commotion and many people, some helping and others watching. Some people who were in the place had been able to remove a young woman who had drowned. They were performing CPR [maniobras de reanimación cardiopulmonar]. Others were trying to get out another woman who had been able to grab onto the volcanic walls, ”said the agent.
The young woman whom the spontaneous attempts to revive was Jasmine Ben Ali, a 33-year-old Swiss architect and social activist who had just arrived in Tenerife for a holiday from Mendrisio, a city in the canton of Ticino, on the border of Switzerland with Italy. Jasmine had come to the Tancón together with Giovanni Rodríguez, a 27-year-old Italian living in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and the woman, also a resident of the island – her identity has not been revealed – that the local police found clinging to the walls of the bufadero. “I was in shock. The sea was beginning to rise. In the first stroke, the water covered her half, but in the second, it covered her completely. I did not hesitate to get into the mouthpiece to get her out of there immediately.
Edwin Gorrín recalls that one of the people who were in the place appeared with a rope and a life preserver that the workers of the Hotel Barceló Santiago had provided. «With that team and taking advantage of a moment when the sea had withdrawn, the we went up to the top of the bufadero. We finally managed to get her to safety, while at that moment the firefighters, ambulances and the rest of the operation began to arrive, ”he recalls. “My friend is downstairs, my friend is downstairs!” The woman repeated desperately, referring to Giovanni, who had been swallowed up by the sea and swallowed up in the depths of the cave. There was no sign of the young man in the foam of a totally rough sea. Meanwhile, the woman watched as the group of bathers tried to retrieve her friend Jasmine a few meters away, whom they had managed to bring to the surface not without great haste.
The agent also recalls that the resuscitation maneuvers for Jasmine Ben Ali lasted for more than an hour. “There was a time when health professionals took over but it was bad for them. He had drowned and was in cardiorespiratory arrest. It was very distressing. According to the information obtained by the witnesses, these three people were bathing in the nozzle, possibly with the intention of entering the cave, when the sea hit. The shaking caused Jasmine and Giovanni to bang their heads against the ceiling of the small passage that leads to the cave. They lost consciousness and were left at the mercy of the overflow.
Divers from Santiago del Teide and San Miguel de Abona who know this cave and its dangers joined the search for Giovanni. They and other divers came to see him and tried to take him outside but another blow from the sea took him to the bottom. Already at that moment they had no hope of finding him alive. Her lifeless body appeared the next day a few meters from the Tancón, while on Saturday the doctors from the Hospital de la Candelaria confirmed Jasmine’s death. The other woman and a bather who cooperated in the rescue efforts were slightly injured.
It was not the first time that Edwin went urgently to this part of the Santiago coastline. “I went at least two other times to rescue people in distress.” He admits that he has never dared to bathe there. “Everyone knows in Santiago del Teide that it is a very dangerous area, in which bathing has also been prohibited for a few years,” he says. The local police officer acknowledges that he may have slipped but at no time did he think that his life could also be in danger. You always gamble. However, the only thing you think about in those moments is saving lives. Every second is crucial. It could have been worse ”, concludes Edwin Gorrín.