Police divers and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, continuing to search for two missing KZN Wildlife field rangers who went missing on Lake Nhlabane, in the Enseleni Nature Reserve, on Friday, 22nd June, located and recovered the body of one of the two missing men during a scuba dive search on Monday afternoon.
While it appears that the ranger may have died from drowning an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
A search is continuing for the remaining missing ranger.
Original release follows:
HLABANE LAKE Friday 22nd June 2012:
NSRI Richards Bay volunteer sea rescue duty crew were called out following reports of two KZN Wildlife Rangers missing on Hlabane Lake, approximately 30 kilometers North of Richards Bay, on the RBM (Richards Bay Minerals) mine.
According to Dorian Robertson, NSRI Richards Bay station commander, our NSRI Richards Bay volunteer sea rescue duty crew responded to the scene at 17h30 in our NSRI rescue vehicle towing the rescue boat Rotary Anne to be launched on-scene.
It appears that during Friday morning (22nd June) four KZN Wildlife Rangers, on a foot patrol operation, north of Hlabane Lake, had come across a small dug-out canoe with fishing nets on board but no people to be found in the remote and wild area.
We believe that they made the decision to confiscate the canoe (which may be suspected to have been used for illegal fishing) and two of the rangers set off in an attempt to paddle the canoe across the Lake to the south side of the Lake where they would have been able to recover the canoe at the RBM Water Pump Station a distance of approximately 5 kilometers.
The other two rangers then set off on foot to walk around the Lake with plans to meet up with their colleagues at the RBM Water Pump Station. On their arrival at the Water Pump Station at midday there was no sign of the paddlers.
At 15h30, they raised the alarm at the KZN Wildlife offices, reporting that they suspected that their colleagues were overdue, and a team of rangers was dispatched to begin scouring the shore-line in an attempt to find them. The lake is 20 kilometers long and 5 wide. There are also crocodiles and hippos in it.
By 17h30, with still no sign of the two missing rangers, KZN Wildlife requested the assistance of NSRI Richards Bay and a full scale search and rescue operation was launched.
On arrival on-scene, in fading light, with choppy water conditions and a 12 to 15 knot North Westerly wind, NSRI Richards Bay volunteers launched Rotary Ann and began running a coordinated search pattern, from the South Lake Water Pump Station towards where the two men had launched the dug-out canoe.
NSRI volunteers joined KZN Wildlife Rangers in a coordinated shore-line search effort around the Lake.
By 21h00 the search operation, hampered by the choppy Lake conditions, a dark night with rain conditions and no moon, and the rescue boat and shore-line search parties ever mindful of the risk of happening upon crocodiles or hippo’s, was joined by RBM staff and management who set up lighting equipment to aid in the search and the Transnet National Ports Authorities ‘PortNet’ search and rescue helicopter, using their ‘night sun’ search light, joined the search efforts.
By 22h30, despite an extensive search operation and with no sign of the two men NSRI suspended the search and plans were made for Police Search and Rescue to continue the search from first light.
It is feared that if the dug-out canoe had capsized on the water, taking into account the conditions that the search parties faced, it may have been impossible to spot the upturned dug-out canoe on the water in those conditions, despite the extensive efforts by the rescuers to leave no stone unturned in the meticulous search operation.
However, any suggestions on what might have happened, at this stage, is pure speculation and extensive efforts to find the two missing rangers continues.
This morning, Saturday, 23rd June, a Police Search and Rescue team took over the control and continuation of the ongoing search operation.