Last night ( Thursday 27 Feb 2014) was the awards presentation at NSRI in Wilderness. Five men, including two NSRI volunteers and three from the Titan Helicopter Group were recognised for their rescue of 19 crew from the stricken Kiani Satu.
At 03h39 on the 8th of August 2013 Knysna and Wilderness Sea Rescue volunteers were called out after the 165 metre rice bulk carrier reported that she was in grave danger of running aground at Walker Bay, between Knysna and Sedgefield. There were 19 crew members aboard the stricken vessel.
Suffering engine failure in terrible seas, with five metre swells and the wind gusting to 45 knots, it was not long before the Kiani Satu was hard aground. With a huge sea running, and the ship being positioned so that her stern port quarter was being smashed by colossal waves, it was impossible to use rescue boats to get the trapped crew off the vessel.
A helicopter rescue was the only option.
Because of the position of the ship, in close proximity to the beach, with waves often breaking on her stern and reaching high above the bridge, it was a tricky operation. A NSRI rescue swimmer on board the aircraft was winched onto the stern of the ship where he was tasked with gathering the crew and organising their lifting into the helicopter.
During this process, with huge swells racing at the ship, which regularly smashing over the stern, the helicopter had to often break away and rapidly gain height and the crew and rescue swimmer had to move into the safety of the superstructure for fear of being washed overboard. Despite this grave danger all 19 men were winched to safety.
The whole operation was an extremely demanding rescue that involved excellent team work, steel nerves and communication amongst all who were on board the aircraft and the NSRI volunteer on the deck below.
The team’s actions were in the best traditions of the National Sea Rescue Institute and we are delighted to be able to recognise their efforts with this vote of thanks.