Husband of model who fell off yacht is charged with her manslaughter
Husband of Brazilian model who drowned after falling overboard couple’s catamaran in rough seas is charged with manslaughter after ‘twice ignoring stormy weather warnings’
- Jorge Sestini, 37, is accused of risking the life of Caroline Bittencourt who died
- The mother-of-one, also 37, was pulled from the water on April 29 off Sao Paulo
- She had gone over the side of their 16ft catamaran in 60mph wind speeds
The husband of a Brazilian model who died after being swept overboard in a tragic boating accident during a gale has been charged with her manslaughter.
Jorge Sestini, 37, is accused of ignoring two warnings to not set sail amid rough weather forecasts, which is alleged to have led to the death of wife Caroline Bittencourt.
The mother-of-one, also 37, was pulled from the water on April 29 near Cigarras Beach – 14 miles away from the Sao Paulo coast where she had gone over the side of their 16ft catamaran.
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Jorge Sestini, 37, is accused of ignoring two warnings to not set sail amid rough weather forecasts, which is alleged to have led to the death of wife Caroline Bittencourt
The mother-of-one, also 37, was pulled dead from the water on April 29 near Cigarras Beach
She was found 14 miles away from the Sao Paulo coast where she had gone over the side of the 16ft catamaran (underside pictured)
Police have now accused Sestini, who was also rescued two hours after jumping in to save his wife, of negligence and risking Ms Bittencourt’s life.
It comes after the owner of the the marina which the couple had departed claimed that he warned Sestini of the dangerously strong winds.
Detective Vanderley Pagliarini, of São Sebastião Civil Police, said: ‘We believe Jorge risked the life of Caroline and himself when he apparently ignored warnings about the impending bad weather.
‘Following a testimony by Leonardo Oliveira, the owner of the Le-Mar Garagem Nautica, the marina where the boat departed from, we have decided to indict Jorge for negligence and unintentionally causing the death of his wife.
‘It appears Leonardo warned Jorge on two separate occasions about the conditions at sea and about tempestuous winds in the channel through which he would have had to navigate on his return journey.’
He added: ‘Knowing that bad weather was raging at that moment in the region, especially for those who were on board small boats and (apparently) expressly ignoring the warnings in this regard and deciding to launch into the sea, suggests indisputable negligence.
Police have now accused Sestini, who also rescued two hours after jumping in to save his wife, of negligence and risking Ms Bittencourt’s (pictured) life
‘Lorenzo claimed he attempted (but failed) to contact the couple even after he sent that (audio message) to warn them not to try crossing the canal but to leave it until the next day because it was dangerous for them to try to navigate through the storm.’
As the weather worsened, the marine owner apparently sent a second alert to Mr Sestini around 3:44pm on Sunday 28 April, by a WhatsApp audio message.
This was the last contact with the model’s husband, who allegedly responded around 4:30pm thanking and informing Mr Oliveira that he was already on the channel between São Sebastião and and Ilhabela and expected to return to the marina at Pontal da Cruz on the mainland by 5:30pm.
It has also been alleged that Ms Bittencourt was not wearing her compulsory lifejacket when she went overboard.
Four vests were found in a closed compartment, secured by a latch, at the bow of the boat.
The had glamorous model had spent the weekend at Sestini’s secluded house on Ilhabela, a picturesque archipelago located off the coast of Sao Paulo
Sailor Roberto Tenório, 46, who rescued Sestina from the sea, has also given evidence to detectives.
Mr Tenório said it was fortunate that he happened to be passing through the area and heard the husband’s cries for help.
The decision by police to indict the businessman follows a backpedaling from Ms Bittencourt’s family surrounding the victim’s death
Local media had claimed that Ms Bittencourt jumped into the sea to rescue her two puppies – a black spitz, called Cookie, and a white one, named Canjica.
But Orley Bittencourt, her father, had told a radio station that the animals were not with her on the boat.
However, in an Instagram message the family now say that the dogs were with the victim at the time of her death.
They did not explain why her father, Orley, had argued in a radio interview with Band News TV, a day after the tragedy, that the claims were ‘untrue’.
The model’s agent, Andréia Boneti, has always insisted that the animals always travelled with her client.
The social media statement signed by family members, including the model’s father, her 17-year-old daughter, Isabelle, and widowed husband, said: ‘(Caroline) and… Jorge were making a boat crossing between Ilhabela and São Sebastião, towards the city of São Paulo.
‘Approximately halfway through, they were surprised by very strong winds (bursts that went up to 125km/h (77.5mph) according to official records).
Sailor Roberto Tenório, 46, who rescued Sestina from the sea, has also given evidence to detectives
‘These winds, which were super turbulent with very bad visibility, hurled Caroline and her two dogs into the sea …and her husband immediately jumped into the sea to rescue her!
‘Both were adrift and despite every possible effort to reach each other, Caroline unfortunately could not stay afloat and (could not) keep on swimming and sadly drowned.
‘Jorge, after swimming for about three hours, was rescued late at night, by a boat that was passing by.’
The glamourous and popular newly-weds, who married in January this year, had spent the weekend at Sestini’s secluded house on Ilhabela, a picturesque archipelago located off the coast of Sao Paulo.
Captain of São Sebastião Port Authority Wagner Goulart de Souza, speaking some hours after the incident, said: ‘Jorge said he was with his wife in Ilhabela at around 16h:30 and decided to sail towards São Sebastião when they were surprised by strong gale force winds that hit the coast.
‘It appears that due to the force of the winds and the high seas, Caroline was thrown into the sea.
‘Jorge said he immediately leapt into the water in an attempt to rescue his wife but he was unable to do so. He was found around 7pm.’
At the time, Captain Souza said he had been ‘informed only two people were on the boat,’ and given no ‘indication that Caroline jumped off the boat to rescue one of her dogs after it allegedly fell into the water.’
In an interview the day after the incident with TV Band News, Caroline’s father accused online trolls of making up misleading stories about his daughter’s death.
At the time he said: ‘It was nothing more than an accident caused by the storm itself, which hit the coast of Sao Paulo on Sunday. The claims are untrue and inaccurate, and I would ask people to listen to the facts.
‘Jorge told me a wave hit the side of the boat and the strength of that and strong winds unbalanced Carol and she fell into the water. Jorge jumped in to help her. He wasn’t able to throw a float or anything towards her because the distance between them was great because the currents took her quickly.
Caroline’s body was located the next day in the vicinity of Cigarras Beach, also in São Sebastião, some 13.5 miles from where she disappeared
‘He could see Carol and she tried to swim to the boat. He begged her to remain calm because he was coming to get her. But he could see her disappearing under the water and he couldn’t reach her as the storm separated them. He searched for my daughter for more than three hours and lost sight of the boat.’
Caroline’s body was located the next day in the vicinity of Cigarras Beach, also in São Sebastião, some 13.5m (22km) from where she disappeared.
Detectives said they are waiting to formally question Mr Sestini but are giving him time to mourn his loss.
‘We are waiting for Jorge to present himself at the police station. He will then be charged,’ the investigating officer said.
Attempts to contact Mr Sistini’s lawyer were unsuccessful and the family refused to make any further comments on the incident.
If convicted the accused could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
Investigators are also awaiting the results of forensic reports into the shipwreck and examinations to confirm whether the cause of death was by drowning.
The navy is also checking the circumstances surrounding the accident.
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