The chase took them to the dark blue waters off southern Spain: three officers of the national police pursuing four people suspected of trafficking drugs.
The police were piloting a narrow boat, and their prey was an even smaller vessel, according to a statement Friday from the Guardia Civil, the national police.
A helicopter of the Malaga Aerial Unit, supporting the police, caught some of the chase on camera. The video shows the police boat trying to intercept its target on an angle, moving so fast that it bounced across the waves.
Then the boats collided, and the three officers tumbled into the sea. Their boat kept spinning, out of control, its engine blades still churning through the waves as the officers tried to swim away.
The helicopter crew realized the officers were in danger, and someone pulled out a megaphone to make a plea: Would the suspects rescue the police?
The smaller boat, resembling a rubber dingy in a photo released by the police, did not try to flee. Boxy packages floated all around it, scattered by the collision. The people on board picked up the police officers. No one was hurt.
The police, in turn, picked up more than 80 bundles of hashish, weighing more than 6,000 pounds, that had fallen from the boat. They picked up the four people on board, too, and took them back to the coast.
Then they arrested them on charges of drug trafficking.