At 07h25, Tuesday, 22nd July, NSRI St Francis Bay crew were activated following reports of a man fallen overboard the Port Elizabeth long line fishing trawler, HELENA MARIE, 30 nautical miles South West of St Francis Bay.
According to reports the fisherman had fallen overboard at approximately 07h00 after a rope line may have entangled around his foot. The fisherman was wearing a helmet, oil skins and a life-jacket and the vessel reacted according to protocols for a man overboard. A life ring was thrown to the man and crew aboard the trawler cut her trawling long lines for the vessel to come around to where the Port Elizabeth fisherman had gone overboard but on returning to the position no sign of the fisherman could be found and a search commenced while the alarm was raised.
The Transnet National Ports Authority activated NSRI St Francis Bay and Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert for vessels in the area to respond to assist in a search.
Chokka fishing boats, in the area at the time, responded to join the HELENA MARIE in the search for their missing fisherman and NSRI St Francis Bay launched our sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II and on arrival on-scene joined in an extensive sea search.
The life ring was found floating in the water during the search.
NSRI Jeffreys Bay were placed on alert and two SA Air Force 15 Squadron – Charlie Flight helicopters, carrying NSRI Port Elizabeth rescue swimmers, were scrambled from Port Elizabeth to join in the search.
Despite an extensive sea and air search involving a search grid plotted by MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre), ships passing through the area that were alerted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services to keep a watch, NSRI St Francis Bay’s SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II sea rescue craft, the Chokka fishing boats PORTIA 1 and BARATZ and two SA Air Force 15 Squadron – Charlie Flight helicopters no sign of the missing fisherman has been found.
The HELENA MARIE will stay in the area continuing a search through the night and the SA Air Force are tasked to fly a coastal patrol from first light to assist in the search. Maritime alerts continue to be broadcast by Telkom Maritime Radio Services for vessels in the area to keep a watch and the SA Police Services have been alerted and will open an investigation into the incident.