SEA RESCUE – ST HELENA BAY – Saturday, 13th October, 2012.
Darius van Niekerk, NSRI Mykonos station commander, said:
“At 22h10 (Friday, 12th October) NSRI Mykonos volunteer sea rescue duty crew were activated following reports from St Helena Bay Police that 29 year old Dean Russant, from St Helena Bay, a fisherman, had reportedly swum ashore from the small fishing boat Hano, after their boat sustained engine failure while they were fishing, leaving his brother onboard, 33 year old Lloyd Russant.
“Dean had swum ashore to raise the alarm after they failed to reach family members by SMS after running out of cellphone airtime.
“The brothers had been fishing from their boat close in-shore at St Helena Bay at the time and it is estimated that Dean had swum about half a kilometer to reach shore to raise the alarm.
“It could not be confirmed if their boat was at anchor at the time.
“Local St Helena Bay police initiated a shore search while activating NSRI Mykonos and our NSRI Mykonos volunteer sea rescue duty crew towed our 5.5 meter rigid inflatable sea rescue craft to the scene to be launched.
“The WC Government Health Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was placed on alert.
“On arrival on-scene our sea rescue craft launched and we began a search in calm sea conditions with a 10 to 15 knot off-shore wind and despite an extensive search extending into the early hours of this morning (Saturday, 13th October) no sign of the boat and the missing fisherman was found.
“It was confirmed that no safety equipment or life-jackets were onboard the fishing boat.
“From first light the search continued with shore and sea patrols and the Red Cross Air Mercy Services EMS Skymed helicopter joined in the search and authorization was also given, by the Transnet National Ports Authority, for MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Center) to activate an SA Air Force long range fixed wing aircraft to join in the search.
“Prior to the Air Force getting airborne the Skymed helicopter located the fishing boat 8 nautical miles North of her original reported position (from the original position that was given last night) meaning that the boat may not have been at anchor and had drifted during the night.
“The missing fisherman was not found on the boat and the boat has been towed to shore and handed over to the Police.
“An air, sea and shore search has revealed no sign of the missing fisherman and the Police Port of Entry Security and a Police Dive Unit have been activated to continue the search with the St Helena Bay Police Force.
“It is suspected that the missing fisherman, who also suffers from chronic illness, may have tried to swim ashore but it is now suspected that if this is the case he may have drowned.
“Police are counseling the surviving brother and family members.”
NSRI are urging fishermen and anyone launching any kind of craft onto water to wear life-jackets at all times while on water.
Carry, and know how to use, standard safety equipment, red distress flares; a referee whistle; a signaling mirror or CD disc worn around the neck and used to signal other craft or aircraft by using the sun; a hand-held radio or cellphone, with fully charged batteries and kept in water tight sleeves; a waterproof torch.
And, let a responsible person know the time you are leaving, your exact route and your return time. Stick to your planned route and check-in with the responsible person on your safe return.
Have your local sea rescue emergency number programmed into your phone and into the phone of the responsible person – find your nearest sea rescue emergency number at http://www.nsri.org.za/ and also have an additional emergency number – the National EMS emergency number – 10177 programmed into your phone (in KZN-Natal the additional emergency number is – 10111).
If your boat or craft capsizes or becomes adrift at sea do not try to swim ashore but rather stay with the floating structure.
Recently the NSRI WarterWise team conducted extensive training for West Coast Fishermen, West Coast communities, West Coast Police and West Coast Maritime Authorities highlighting safety at sea and education on how to activate sea rescue in an emergency in an effort to escalate a safety at sea consciousness.
In a sea rescue emergency seconds wasted in activating NSRI could mean the difference between life and death and in light of this sad tragedy on the West Coast today NSRI are appealing to all South Africans to take special precautions on water, know how to reach the NSRI in an emergency, and adhere to standard safety precautions on water, particularly in light of the approaching summer season.