An experienced Armed Forces of Malta scuba diver and war hero has died off the coast of Gozo.
Christine Gauci, 35, from Victoria had been swimming with a friend at Mgarr ix-Xini on Saturday morning when she appeared to get into difficulties in the sea.
Police said the alarm was raised when she failed to resurface following the dive.
The emergency services as well as the Armed Forces of Malta were alerted and rushed to the scene at around 10.30am.
She was eventually found and lifted to shore but was pronounced dead by paramedics.
Christine’s devastated brother John paid tribute to her on social media.
He posted on Facebook: ‘The message I sent you this morning will remain unread forever. Rest in peace, sis.’
Gozo minister Justyne Caruana paid respects to her friend on Twitter, describing her as ‘sweet, talented and kindhearted’.
Christine served with both the Armed Forces of Malta and the British Army during her career.
She was promoted to Lance Bombardier 10 years ago and was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan after being deployed there in 2011.
Shocked and saddened. Christine so sweet, talented and kindhearted. Rest in peace my friend. pic.twitter.com/evVkFSo6UD
— Justyne Caruana (@justynecaruana) January 18, 2020
As well as her love of military life and the sea around Gozo, Christine was a keen motorbike enthusiast.
One of her army colleagues expressed his shock at the tragic news of her death.
George Joseph Borg wrote: ‘You were a sincere, energetic and very adventurous woman with a heart of gold.
‘You urged me to join the Armed Force and gave me courage, which I will never forget.’
A police investigation is underway.
Mgarr ix-Xini is considered ‘very safe’
Mgarr ix-Xini is a popular diving spot, according to the tourism website VisitGozo.com.
It says: ‘The seabed is mainly made up of sand with small boulders on the side and Neptune grass meadows along the middle.
‘Two interesting caves are found on the west side of the valley.
‘This dive may not appear all that striking at first, but it is here that divers will encounter numerous fish rarely seen elsewhere.’
Divers-Guide.com descibes Mgarr ix-Xini as ‘an easy dive.’
It adds: ‘This is really an easy dive. Going in taking the left wall, returning on the right wall so you don’t miss a thing.
‘A little past the beach there are several entrances. There are also ladders to leave the water in a safe manner.’
In 2014, Brad Pit and Angeline Jolie used the Gozo beauty spot as a film location for the romantic drama ‘By the Sea’.