Umkomaas – Monday, 03rd September, 2012. Missing divers found safe:
Clifford Ireland, NSRI Durban station commander, said:
“At 10h15 on Monday, 03rd September NSRI Durban volunteers were activated following reports of a group of 4 divers missing from a scuba dive at Aliwal Shoal, off Umkomaas, near Durban.
“The skipper of the dive charter boat, which is from Umkomaas Dive Supply, reported that the 4 divers, 2 men and 2 women, had dived at Aliwal Shoal but during the dive the skipper had lost sight of the dive marker buoy and had immediately called NSRI Durban and his dive charter company to raise the alarm while initiating a search himself.
“NSRI Durban dispatched volunteers, with one of the NSRI volunteers private rigid inflatable boats to be towed to the scene to be launched there. A Transnet National Ports Authority rescue helicopter carrying an NSRI rescue swimmer was activated and Police Search and Rescue activated a Police helicopter to respond with Police Search and Rescue and Netcare 911 ambulance services were activated while 3 additional charter boat companies, Ocean Works, African Dive Adventure and ScubaXcursion, launched boats from the area to join in the search.
“It was confirmed that at the time the Umkomaas Dive Supply charter boat was the only charter boat on the water conducting a dive.
“It was also confirmed that the divers were well equipped and highly experienced advanced divers and they included two local divers, from Umkomaas, and two French divers.
“Prior to the two rescue helicopter and NSRI’s arrival on-scene the charter boat from African Dive Adventures found all 4 divers together, they were swimming towards shore in a group, and all 4 were rescued and brought to shore where Netcare 911 paramedics confirmed that they were not injured.
“It appears that a wind had picked up while they were scuba diving and on surfacing they were approximately 300 meters upwind from their dive charter boat and despite using their referee whistles, against the wind, their calls to their boat skipper went unheard. By that stage the boat skipper had lost sight of them and had raised the alarm while marking the position with the correct ‘man overboard’ procedure and initiating a search himself.
“The 4 divers, Bryan Vivier and Rae du Plessis, from Umkomaas, and Andre Zabolski and Mala Coccalingame, both believed to be from France, had grouped together, using their floatation devices, and had swum towards shore. They had reached approximately 2.5 kilometers from their dive site (and 1.5 kilometers from the beach) when they were found by the African Dive Adventures boat.
“NSRI commend the actions of the skipper of Umkomaas Dive Supply for not hesitating to activate an emergency. The 3 charter boat companies, from the area, are commended for volunteering to immediately launch a search in cooperation with sea rescue authorities, and the 4 divers are commended for maintaining a level headed approach to their predicament and gradually heading towards shore safely.
“The actions of all involved today averted this incident escalating into something more serious.”