At 10h52, Saturday, 01 November, NSRI Port Elizabeth were alerted to a paddler overdue and missing in the vicinity of Sardinia Bay, Port Elizabeth.
At 06h00 a group of paddlers had embarked on a downwind paddle, from Summer Strand, Algoa Bay, down the Wild Side towards their destination, a landing spot in Sardinia Bay
It appears that, during the paddle, conditions deteriorated with visibility reduced by mist in rough sea swells of 3 meters and a steady 25 knot South Easterly wind.
At 10h15 the group of paddlers arrived in Sardinia Bay but realised that one of the paddlers was overdue and missing and despite climbing up a sand dune to try to spot the missing paddler they couldn’t spot him and they raised the alarm.
NSRI Port Elizabeth responded in our sea rescue vehicle towing our sea rescue craft BOARDWALK RESCUE which was launched on-scene and our rescue BOARDWALK Quad Bike which went up the sand dune where shore sea rescue crew tried to spot the paddler.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Beach Office authorities and GaudMed ambulance services also responded.
At that stage the paddler was spotted three quarters of a nautical mile West of their intended landing spot and he appeared to be in the water, hanging onto his surf ski, and drifting rapidly towards a reef and breaking wave sets.
In a rough and confused sea state, our sea rescue craft reached the man who was in breaking surf sets and tried to rescue him but the first rescue effort was aborted to avoid breaking waves. It was clear to our rescue crew that the man was in a critical hypothermic state with his hands frozen in a vice grip to his paddle board. He was unresponsive to verbal instructions. On a second run rescue effort our sea rescue crew reached him (still clinging to his paddle board but unresponsive) and prized the injured mans hands free of his surf-ski and forcibly rescued him onto our sea rescue craft with only seconds to spare before being battered by an incoming set of breaking waves. Once on the sea rescue craft treatment commenced for severe hypothermia while our sea rescue craft raced to shore through extremely rough sea. The casualty, in severe pain from hypothermia, and in a critical condition was brought to shore where he was loaded onto our sea rescue vehicle on the beach and driven to the parking area where he was loaded into a GaurdMed ambulance.
Treatment for severe hypothermia continued in the ambulance and Mr. Clint Hempel, 48, from St Francis Bay, was transported to hospital in a critical condition where doctors continued to fight to save his life and following extensive rewarming procedures Mr. Hempels condition has stabilised and although he remains in a serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit of St Georges Life Health Care Hospital, with his wife at his side, doctors are confident that he will fully recover.
NSRI urge paddlers to wear brightly coloured and appropriate thermal gear for cold water and carry safety equipment – a fully charged cellphone with rescue phone numbers programmed into the phone and the phone in a water tight plastic sleeve, red distress flares, a referee whistle, a waterproof torch. Always wear a life-jacket while on water and let a responsible person know your departure time, your exact route, your return time and stick to your route and on failing to return as expected that responsible person must be briefed to alert sea rescue authorities immediately. Paddlers are urged to paddle in groups with a ‘buddy system’ in place to ensure paddlers always have support during a paddle.
TO REPORT A SEA RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 112 FROM A CELLPHONE
SMS 32287 with your name and a message of support for our rescue crew.