Sea Rescue – Port Alfred – 05 June, 2011: At 08h08 this morning nine chokka boat fishermen were rescued from inside the upturned hull of their 45 ft chokka boat ” Kowie” by NSRI volunteers from Port Alfred and Port Elizabeth. One crewman died and the skipper swam ashore.
Juan Pretorius, NSRI Port Alfred Station Commander, said:
“At 04h00 NSRI Port Alfred volunteers were called out for a chokka boat capsized 7 nautical miles east of Port Alfred.
“The skipper told me that he had walked 4 kilometres to the nearest house to raise the alarm, and that his boat, a 45 ft chokka fishing vessel called “ Kowie”, had been hit by lightning and capsized close inshore.
He had managed to swim to shore but did not know what had happened to the rest of his crew.
“ We immediately dispatched a Sea Rescue 4×4 vehicle, followed by a Sea Rescue quad bike along the beach to Riet Punt, 7 nautical miles east of Port Alfred.
“ Our 9m deep sea rescue boat, Kowie Rescuer and 5,5 meter RIB Arthur Scales were put on stand-by to launch at first light as sea conditions were bad. We also requested the Airforce to send a helicopter from Charlie Flight, in Port Elizabeth.
“ At 06h10 Kowie Rescuer and Arthur Scales left the rescue base and a BK117 helicopter from Charlie Flight in Port Elizabeth, with 3 Sea Rescue Helicopter Unit( SRHU) volunteers aboard, all raced to the scene. The SAPS, private ambulance service Guardmed and the Fire department also responded to the scene.
“The tide was high and the upturned hull of the chokka boat “ Kowie” was found in the surf line. The body of one fisherman was washed onto the beach.
“ As the tide ebbed we were able to get a sea rescue volunteer to the upturned hull. When he banged the hull, he clearly heard a response, signaling that there were survivors trapped.
“ One of our volunteers works at a hardware store in Port Alfred and organised for it to be opened so that we could get tools to cut into the hull and free the men.The Air Force helicopter flew to Talisman plant and tool hire hardware in Port Alfred and brought back a chain saw, and axes which we used to cut into the hull, said Juan.
Port Elizabeth volunteer, Marcus Oshry, was at the hull as the hole was cut. he takes up the story:
“ We first cut a 30cm by 30 cm hole so that we could communicate with the crew. They told us that there were nine of them trapped.
“ We asked them to move back and cut a larger hole so that they could be pulled out.”
At 08h08 the first man was pulled out.
“Jubilation went through the crowd that had gathered on the beach.
“ The tears were flowing and the skipper hugged each one as they were brought ashore, said Marcus.
The last man out was carried ashore by Marcus.
“ He was crying and I broke down as well. It was very emotional,” said Marcus.
The nine survivors were flown to hospital by the Air force BK117 and are all stable.
The Emergency Services have expressed sincere condolences to survivors and the family of the deceased fisherman.
UPDATE : Media pictures are available for download at Sea Rescue’s Flickr stream.