At 17h36, Monday, 19th January 2015, NSRI Bakoven responded aboard the Sea Rescue craft ROTARIAN SCHIPPER following reports of a teenager being swept out to sea at Camps Bay Beach.
Community Medics, ER24 ambulance services, WC Government Health EMS, Life Health Care paramedic response, Camps Bay Watch, Law Enforcement, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, Municipal lifeguards and the SA Police Services also responded.
The 18 year old teenager, Shane Keenan, from Fourways, Johannesburg, had been flying a large kite on the beach when it got caught in the wind. He had gone into the sea after it but got into difficulty and was swept about 200 meters off-shore before being swept in towards rocks at Maidens Cove.
Lifeguards had reached the teenager but were forced to abort the rescue attempt and swam back to shore without the casualty.
On arrival on-scene NSRI Bakoven sea rescue craft searched for the casualty and were guided to his position by the rescue services on the beach, but in heavy 3.5 meter breaking surf and a 50 knot South Easterly gale force wind, the rescue craft could not get anywhere close to the casualty who was close to rocks at Maidens Cove.
NSRI deputy station commander Johnny Alberts, at the helm of the Sea Rescue craft, said that the sea conditions were horrendous, and realising that in the breaking surf the rescue craft would be in grave danger if attempts were made to try to reach the teenager. Putting a rescue swimmer into the water would put the rescue swimmers life at risk, so he signalled to the teenager to swim further out (towards the rescue craft) but the teenager was wide eyed and appearing fearful. NSRI rescuers could not understand why he was not responding to the request to swim towards the rescue craft.
Johnny timed the sets and managed to do a sweeping pass of the teenager, who was now almost in between the rocks and at risk of being battered into them by the heaving breaking swells. Again Johnny shouted to the teenager to swim free of the rocks towards the boat but the teenager simply said “I can’t swim”. The rescue craft was forced to abort the rescue to avoid being battered into rocks by the incoming wave sets and headed back out to sea to avoid the incoming swell sets.
Johnny said that at this stage they were at a loss as to what to do to save the teenager from certain peril.
Still not understanding the plight of the teenager and not knowing what the teenager meant by saying that he cannot swim, Johnny indicated to his crew that they had no choice but to make a dash for it and that he would attempt to get the craft closer to the teenager.
A brief lull in wave sets allowed Johnny to take the craft up to the teenager and with the bow facing out to sea the crew tried to pull the teenager aboard the craft but were surprised to find that he would not budge and it appeared that he was anchored to the sea bed.
In a back wash of water the NSRI crew were shocked to find that the teenager was trapped and entangled by his legs in the kite rope cords to the kite which was filled with water, trapped and entangled in amongst the rocks. (the reason he could not swim was because he was anchored to the sea bed by his large kite that had filled with water, got trapped in amongst rocks, and was entangled around the teenagers legs trapping him to the seabed).
With up to 3.5 meter swell sets bearing down and heading straight onto the craft Johnny shouted to his rescue crew to hang onto the teenager (who was half on board – precariously perched on the pontoon of the boat and entangled in his kite rope cords) the crew hung onto the teenager while Johnny steadily gunned the boat into the 3.5 meter waves that were breaking over the sea rescue craft.
The crew feared injuring the teenager as they hung onto him the kite and rope cords were pulling him in the opposite direction but as the Sea Rescue craft steadily reached deeper water the kite load that was entangled onto the teenagers legs appeared to get lighter and manoeuvring the craft through the breaking surf got easier. The rescue craft eventually made it to the back line where the NSRI rescue crew were able to pull the teenager into the boat and pull the kite and all of the kite rope cords into the boat too.
While heading back towards our base at Bakoven, the crew started to cut rope free that was entangled around the teenagers legs while medical treatment for severe hypothermia, near drowning symptoms, exhaustion and shock commenced.
Paramedics raced to Bakoven and when the boat arrived medical treatment continued by paramedics while further rope was cut free from the teenagers legs.
It appears that when the teenager reached his kite, rope from the kite had entangled around his legs and in the strong surf conditions and the gale force winds the kite had drifted and was blown into Maidens Cove with the teenager trailing along behind the kite and entrapped in the rope cords.
The teenager has been transported to hospital by ER24 ambulance in a serious but stable condition and he is expected to fully recover.
The Bakoven NSRI crew aboard ROTARIAN SCHIPPER are commended for their actions today.
TO REPORT A SEA RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 112 FROM A CELLPHONE