Marc Rodgers, NSRI Plettenberg Bay deputy station commander, said:
“At 02h00 on Saturday the 20th of June, NSRI Plettenberg Bay duty crew were activated following an eye-witness report of a red distress flare sighted off-shore approximately 15 nautical miles East of Robberg Point.
“NSRI alerted the Plettenberg Bay coast watchers to be on the look-out and an NSRI team were dispatched to observe the coastline from the shoreline closer to the sighting while investigations were initiated to determine if any vessels were overdue or any reports of missing persons that may be related to the flare.
“Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert and the yacht Sunsail 1515 reported seeing the flare but no further flares had been sighted by them.
“A Plettenberg Bay Security Company then also reported the same sighting witnessed by night security guards in Plettenberg Bay.
“NSRI Plettenberg Bay duty crew prepared a sea rescue craft to be launched but following confirmation of no vessels overdue or missing crew remained on alert and while no further flares were sighted by daylight at first light local pilot Stewart Lithgow volunteered his private aerobatics aircraft and flew an aerial search of the area but no sign of any vessel in distress was found.
“With still no reports of any persons or vessels reported overdue or missing by Sunday NSRI Plettenberg Bay have been released from alert status to return to normal stand-by status.
“The origin of the flare and the reason for a red distress flare being deployed at 2a.m. East of Robberg Point remains a mystery.”
Ian Klopper, NSRI Kommetjie station commander, said:
“At 18h21 on Saturday the 20th of June, NSRI Kommetjie duty were alerted following concerns by local residents at the Crayfish Factory, Scarborough, thinking that a paddler may be overdue.
“A paddler was seen parking his car at the Crayfish Factory car park and launching a paddle craft to go for a paddle but he was not seen returning and now at last light with the car still parked there concerns were raised.
“NSRI Kommetjie rescuers responded to the scene but there was nothing on or at the vehicle to assist to shed any light if this was normal for the paddler to be out paddling at dusk with nightfall approaching fast and no signs of the paddler in the immediate vicinity could be found.
“A shoreline search from elevated points along surrounding roads revealed no sign of a paddler and NSRI Hout Bay were placed on alert to prepare to launch sea rescue craft (additional sea rescue craft would be required if this turned into a night inshore search and rescue operation).
“Additional NSRI Kommetjie rescuers were dispatched to the surrounding beach areas to broaden the initial search for what we now strongly suspected to be a paddler overdue.
“Nightfall had descended and concerns were elevated with still no sign of the paddler.
“Police assisted to track an address in Sea Point from the vehicles registration plates (there was no contact phone number on the vehicle registration records but the only lead that we had to go on was a name and an address).
There was urgency to get hold of the owner of the vehicle or relatives of the owner of the vehicle in an effort to try to confirm if rescue resources in the process of being fully mobilised needed to continue or could be cancelled as we still had no idea if the paddler was actually in any danger.
Sea Point Police and NSRI Bakoven rescuers were dispatched to the address in Sea Point where they interviewed a man’s mother who confirmed that the vehicle belonged to her son, who lives in Noordhoek, and she claimed that her son is also a very experienced adventure paddler. This led us to suspect that the paddler might not be in any trouble after all but we still wanted to make sure as it remained a bit unusual to leave a car in a deserted remote place and go paddling alone into the night.
“NSRI Kommetjie rescuers searching along the shoreline then noticed a man return to the car and drive off seemingly unaware that a search had been launched for him. His mother gave us his contact number and NSRI called him and he confirmed that he had gone for a paddle and that he regularly leaves his car in remote areas to go camping or paddling.
“All resources were stood down to return to base.”
“NSRI urge anyone launching any kind of craft onto water to let a responsible person know your departure time, your exact intended route, your return time and to check in with that responsible person on your safe return.
If you don’t return as scheduled the responsible person should alert sea rescue immediately.
We also urge you to stencil your contactable phone number and the phone number of that “responsible person” on your craft, on your crafts trailer or roof racks or leave a note on the dashboard with these contactable phone numbers visible.
This will help us in these kinds of cases to quickly determine if you need our help or if you are just going about your normal routine.
“NSRI commend the community for alerting us where they suspect persons to be in danger.”
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