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CORRECTION: SEA RESCUE ST FRANCIS BAY, Wednesday, 27th August:

Please find corrections made in the press statement below….

8 crew of the stricken chokka fishing boat SIKELELA were rescued off the SIKELELA by the Baloyi fishing company TNPA tender harbour boat RICOCHET while the chokka boat was being swept ashore (before she hit the rocks and Dolos).

When the chokka fishing boat washed up against the rocks there were only 5 men remaining on SIKELELA.

Only 1 crewman, the First Mate, managed to jump ashore onto rocks (he was received by members of the public and escorted to paramedics as they arrived on-scene).

2 crewmen were rescued by NSRI rescue swimmers and taken onboard the sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II.

1 crewman was rescued by RICOCHET after the casualty boat had already washed against the rocks and Dolos (RICOCHET took that man to shore before returning to rescue the skipper of SIKELELA).

The skipper of SIKELELA was the last man to be rescued off the chokka boat and he was rescued by RICOCHET.

This updated information has revealed an incredible feat achieved by the small Baloyi fishing company harbour tender rubber duck in rescuing 10 people off the stricken chokka boat and certainly averted a maritime disaster in conjunction with NSRI St Francis Bay rescuing the two crewmen from the water.

All are commended for this incredible achievement today.

SEA RESCUE – STATION 21, St Francis Bay.

At 07h41, on Wednesday, 27th August, NSRI St Francis Bay volunteer duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following reports of the chokka fishing boat SIKELELA running aground on the Western side of the Port of St Francis.

Our duty crew launched SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II and TNPA Port Control activated the private rubber duck from the Balobi Fishing Company that is also the harbour tender boat, RICOCHET, which also responded.

Private Care ambulance services, EC Disaster Management and EC Government Health EMS responded.

The chokka boat SIKELELA, from St Francis Bay, skippered by Hutch McKenna, had lost motor power as she was turning in towards entering the harbour entrance in 5 meter breaking swells and a 10 to 15 knot Westerly wind she was unable to take corrective action and had been engulfed by waves and forced onto the rocks with 13 crew on board.

Exiting the harbour mouth both the Port tender boat RICOCHET and the NSRI St Francis Bay’s rescue craft SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II were faced with 5 meter breaking swells and the casualty chokka boat already up against the dolosse and against rocks and being battered by breaking swells crashing over the casualty boat.

Eight crew of the casualty chokka boat had managed to jump off the boat onto the land as a lull in the waves offered a brief reprieve, and in what has been described as a miraculous twist of fate, that saw the casualty chokka boat roll in the swell and turn side on to the Dolos. They were helped by members of the public, residents of the Port townhouses, that had come out of their homes to help. All 8 were taken to safety and received by the responding EMS paramedics and Disaster Management officers that had responded.

The Port tender boat, that arrived on scene first, skippered by Lafran Toskie with crewman Kevin Bremner, had timed the incoming swell and managed to get their boat against the casualty chokka boat and two casualty crew were rescued off SIKELELA and brought safely into Port. Two crew and the skipper remained on SIKELELA.

At that stage the sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II arrived on-scene to find two crewmen hanging onto the side of SIKELELA being battered by waves. The skipper was standing on the top of the boat and a large wave that crashed over the boat caused him to fall, lacerating his right arm severely.

With no time to spare two NSRI rescue swimmers, Tantum Dace and Stuart Obrey, were deployed into the surf while coxswain of the sea rescue craft, Neil Jones, handed over the helm to Station Commander Marc May, so that Neil could direct the 2 rescue swimmers.

The 2 rescue swimmers swam up to SIKELELA and ordered the 2 casualty crewman to jump into the water and both were dragged by the rescue swimmers, through breaking swells, while skipper Marc May timed the sets to bring the rescue craft into the danger zone. Facing towards the waves, and punching through, they managed to rescue both casualty men onto the rescue craft. (they were received by NSRI coxswain Neil Jones and NSRI crewman Sarah Smith and hauled onto the rescue boat while Station Commander Marc May helmed the boat through the incoming wave sets).

By this stage the Port tender boat RICOCHET had also returned to the scene, still with skipper Lafran Troskie but now with crewman Craig ‘Short’ Humbee on board. They again managed, while timing the incoming sets, to bring their boat up against SIKELELA and rescue the skipper of SIKELELA off the chokka boat. The rescue was made difficult because he was tangled in fishing lines.

All were brought into the Port and the 5 casualty crew who had been rescued off the Chokka boat were handed into the care of paramedics.

The skipper of SIKELELA, Hugh 'Hudge' McKenna, was the last person to leave the Chokka Boat, and only after he had confirmed that all of his crew were safely off the chokka boat.

Hugh McKenna received stitches to his right arm for a laceration but otherwise none of his 12 crew were injured and were only treated on-scene by paramedics for shock and some observation for secondary drowning but all are safe and accounted for.

The 5 crew that were rescued off SIKELELA were also treated for being submerged in diesel fuel that was in the water spilled from the chokka boat.

NSRI Coxswain Neil Jones was deployed into the surf to attempt to put a tow-line to the casualty chokka boat but in the big swell the decision was taken to abort the effort and salvage companies will investigate the possibility of a salvage effort once the sea swell subsides.

Skipper of the casualty chokka boat SIKELELA, Hugh 'Hudge' McKenna, is a retired NSRI St Francis Bay coxswain.

The NSRI crew aboard the sea rescue craft SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS II and the crew of the Balobi fishing companies tender boat RICOCHET are commended for saving the lives of the 5 SIKELELA crew today in incredibly difficult sea conditions which was made worse by debris, ropes and flotsam from the casualty boat.
Skipper of the chokka boat SIKELELA is also commended for staying on his boat despite a severe laceration injury until all 12 of his crew were safe.

Pictures are available for media download from Sea Rescue's Flickr page.

The Sikelela agound. Picture Craston Wilson. The Sikelela agound. Picture Craston Wilson.

Picture Barry Tonkin. Picture Barry Tonkin.

The Sikelela agound. Picture Craston Wilson. The Sikelela agound. Picture Craston Wilson.

Picture Neil Jones. Picture Neil Jones.

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