2 missing in rough surf conditions at Strand



UPDATE: It has been reported that only one of the missing men is from UWC.

Alan Meiklejohn, NSRI Gordons Bay station commander, said:

At 15h10, Saturday, 18th March, NSRI Gordons Bay duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following reports from Strand Surf Lifesaving lifeguards of 4 people, 2 young men and 2 young women, swept out to sea at Pipe, bordering Strand Beach and AECI Somerset West.

The Sea Rescue craft Jack & Irene, Spirit of Surfski and the rescue runner Boetie Woltemade were launched and NSRI rescue swimmers, the SA Police Services, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services and their dive unit, a Police dive unit, WC Government Health EMS and the EMS rescue squad, GB Med Security ambulance services, ER 24 ambulance services and Law Enforcement Marine Unit responded to join lifeguards on the scene.

It was confirmed that a Church group, believed to be a student Christian group from UWC (University of the Western Cape) had arrived at the beach and entered the water at an area where signage at the beach indicates the area to be a no swimming area, quite a distance away from where Strand Surf Lifesaving Club (Strand SLC) lifeguards were on duty and patrolling a demarcated safe swimming zone in front of the Strand Surf Lifesaving Club.

Strand SLC lifeguards were alerted to a mass drowning incident at around 15h00 at Pipe (a notorious surfing area known for big waves and for strong rip currents) that borders AECI and lifeguards raised the alarm and responded to the scene and found 1 woman being assisted from the water by fellow Church group members and lifeguards launched into the surf and rescued 1 woman from the water.

Lifeguards continued to search for 2 men who were missing but extremely rough sea conditions forced lifeguards to withdraw from the water as sea rescue craft were arriving on the scene.

On NSRI’s arrival on the scene it was confirmed that the two women, aged in their late teens and early 20’s, were safely ashore.  One was not injured and one (who had been rescued by lifeguards) was treated by paramedics for non-fatal drowning symptoms before being released requiring no further assistance.

A search for 2 men missing in the surf continued.

The EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter joined the search but despite an extensive air, sea and shoreline search no sign has been found of the 2 missing men, aged 19 and 20, from Venda and believed to be students at UWC and missing in the surf.

Sea conditions were rough with 2.5 to 3 meter breaking swells in 45 knot, gusting to 50 knot, South Easterly winds and poor water visibility.

Police assisted the Church group who have now departed the scene in buses and a Police Dive Unit are tasked to continue an ongoing search operation and Police have opened an investigation.



We have been sent a series of signage on that portion of the Strand Beach and appeal to all locals and visitors to take note of the warnings and only swim where and when Lifeguards are on duty.

strand signage

4 Responses to “2 missing in rough surf conditions at Strand”

  1. Lunga Mnqokoyi
    19. Mar, 2017 at 12:53 #

    Regarding the claims that the area that the group were swimming in had signs warning the area as a non swimming one are not true and are not a transparent reflection of the insident that transpired. If there were signs, they were not in the facinity the group and many other people were in.

    • Leonard
      19. Mar, 2017 at 16:20 #

      The area the group chose to swim in, is on the other side of a very clear fence with no entry signs. Furthermore the area is approximately 800m – 1km from the demarcated, well-known and patrolled swimming area and absolutely no other people swim there except for surfers who know the area very well and they don’t pass the fence either. This group was seen in the day picnic area which is only about 209m from the patrolled area and they knowingly made their way up the beach away from the area. This group should take responsibility for placing its members in danger by ridiculously poor decision making, for causing Strand lifeguards to need to place themselves in danger and for the cost of the huge rescue operation. It is tragic that lives may have been lost and no money can return the victims. All the responders involved voluntarily dedicate their time and put their lives on the line to avoid this. That makes this kind of comment even more grating. If you didn’t know, then simply admit it, don’t look to pass the buck to someone else.

    • Errol Westoll
      19. Mar, 2017 at 17:48 #

      This is partially true. There are signs all the way along Beach road warning of rip-currents and potentially dangerous surf conditions. But just how far do the authorities have to go to keep a group of excited and adventurous youngsters out of the water – where no one else is swimming? I have witnessed countless people of all ages swimming down at Pipe during season and off-season, in-season BEHIND crossed red danger warning flags. Lifesavers have their work cut out moving resisting folk out of the water to safer swimming space.

      Suffice it to say, witnessing what we did yesterday is awful and my heart goes out to their friends and loved ones. This sort of thing should not happen and our lifesavers do an excellent job of trying to ensure that it does not. The “many others” in the water deep in, were probably local surfers who know the conditions and are on boards. It is a well-know, popular surfing spot.

      Such a tragedy, always!

      That said, maybe the City needs to consider red circular warning signs down that end of the beach in the middle of the beach. Question is, would they be observed?

  2. Pieter
    21. Mar, 2017 at 06:31 #

    Sorry for the lifes lost…and those claiming there are no signs…there actyally is..I live across the road and can see the sign…..if you missed it…why do you think there is a marked area with lifeguards to swim?..really..students of 19 plus years old must surely understand that there are swim areas between the 2 red flags…so yes I am sad snd feel sorry for those families…but don’t blame anyone else but the whole group that went swimming in the WRONG place…

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