UPDATE 2: All divers safe.
Mark Harlen, NSRI Shelly Beach station commander and incident Joint Operations Centre (JOC) Commander, said: “The 9 divers, eight South Africans and one man from Belgium, have been brought to NSRI Shelly Beach sea rescue base.
“Two NSRI Shelly Beach sea rescue craft, Caltex Endeavor and Caltex Challenger and one NSRI Port Edward sea rescue craft Wild Coast Sun Rescuer, a Transnet National Ports Authority rescue helicopter, a Police Search and Rescue helicopter, a Police Search and Rescue team, Netcare 911 ambulance services, Hibuscus Medivac ambulance services, 4 private charter boats: TYDE, DEMONSTRATOR, SEA FREAKS and AVATAR, and 7 Jet-Ski’s from the Umvuntu Lifeguards were involved in the search.
“The search operation commenced at 09h35 after the skipper of the local Dive Charter Boat BLACK TIDE reported that 9 scuba divers that had been diving from BLACK TIDE, off-shore of Protea Banks, near to Shelly Beach, on the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast, had reportedly been seperated from the platform dive charter boat while diving and could not be found.
“During the search the private charter boat TYDE located the divers, at approximately 12h10, 17 nautical miles South of where they had originally been diving.
“This indicates that they had drifted 31.5 kilometers (17 nautical miles) in the 4 meter swell and 25 to 30 knot North Westerly winds.
“After being located by the private charter boat TYDE the other sea rescue boats and the other private boats were diverted to the location and all 9 divers were picked up and brought to the NSRI Shelly Beach sea rescue base where they were assessed by the Netcare 911 and Hibuscus ambulance services paramedics and they were all found to be not injured and they have all been released requiring no further assistance.
“The 9 divers are Stuart Skene, 42, from Durban, Ian van Heerden, 43, from Pennington, Stethe Barain, 30, from Durban, Wouter Gheyfelf, 42, from Belgium, Dennis Hagemann, 29, from Durban, Mike Slabbart, 56, from Umhlanga, Gen Slabbart, 53, from Umhlanga, Alan MacLean, 40, from Hillcrest, and Roland Mauz, 40, a local who was the dive master from African Dive Adventures.
“The skipper of BLACK TIDE was treated for shock and will be counseled by Trauma Counsellors.
“It appears that the skipper of BLACK TIDE had followed the dive marker flotation buoy while not knowing that it had been separated from the divers while the divers were under water scuba diving. Initial indications are that the rope attaching the divers to their dive marker flotation buoy may have snapped from unknown causes.
“The skipper of BLACK TIDE can be commended for marking the position and immediately raising the alarm.
“It would have been impossible for the skipper of Black Tide to have known that the dive marker flotation buoy had been separated from the divers.
“When the divers surfaced they realized that they no longer had the dive marker flotation buoy and they also had no sight of the dive boat.
“The private boats that assisted the rescue services, TYDE, DEMONSTRATOR, SEA FREAKS and AVATAR are commended for assisting in this search and rescue operation. NSRI have a strong bond with local private and charter boating companies on the South Coast and private boats and private charter boat companies often assist in rescue operations of this nature in that area and, as in this case, their assistance proved invaluable in extending the search area quickly ultimately leading to the private boat TYDE coming across the divers.
“The 9 divers report that they had simply tried to stay together, and were successful, after surfacing from a dive and having no sight of the dive charter boat in the big swell. They drifted South and claim that they kept their spirits high.
“All 9 divers are in a jovial mood having survived this ordeal.”
At 12h10 (Sunday, 11th November): Sea Rescue craft and Private boats, engaged in the search for 9 scuba divers missing off-shore of Protea Banks while scuba diving from a charter dive boat, have been diverted to a position where one of the Private Boats, TYDE, has located all 9 scuba divers floating and adrift on the ocean.
The rescue boats will pick up the divers on arrival on-scene and bring them to the NSRI Shelly Beach rescue base.
A medical triage center has been set up at the NSRI Shelly Beach rescue base in order for medical personnel to triage for casualties but NSRI can confirm that all 9 divers are safe.
Further updates to follow.
SEA RESCUE – SHELLY BEACH – Sunday, 11th November, 2012. Search underway for nine missing scuba divers:
Media are requested to make all media enquiries through NSRI Communications – 0823803800 (regular updates will be supplied as information becomes available).
2 sea rescue craft of NSRI Shelly Beach, 1 sea rescue craft of NSRI Port Edward, Police Search and Rescue, two rescue helicopters – The Transnet National Ports Authority helicopter and the Police Search and Rescue helicopter, and 4 private boats are engaged in a search for 9 divers missing off Protea Banks, KZN-Natal South Coast.
Netcare 911 ambulance services are standing-by at the NSRI Shelly Beach sea rescue base where a Joint Operations Control (JOC) has been established.
It appears that the charter dive boat, from which 9 people were scuba diving, lost sight of the 9 divers in 25 to 30 knot North Easterly winds and a 4 meter swell and raised the alarm.
The initial call-out went out at 09h35.
While the priority is on this extensive search and rescue operation that is underway NSRI will regularly update this communication.