At 03h55 on Monday the 31st of August, NSRI Headquarters and NSRI East London were alerted to reports of a 19 year old American male, a student at UCT (University of Cape Town), missing in the surf at a holiday lodge on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape (South West of Coffee Bay).
It appears that 6 UCT students from a group of 11, on a Spring vacation to the area, went to swim at about 11p.m. on Sunday evening when he went missing in the surf after appearing to get into difficulty in the surf line.
Others from the group attempted to find him and staff from the resort were called to join the search, but after all efforts were unsuccessful, local Police were called and the alarm was raised.
Extensive efforts were made to mobilise an SA Air Force (SAAF) helicopter rescue team with the NSRI ASR (Air Sea Rescue) but unfavourable weather conditions hampered these efforts and a Police K-9 Search and Rescue team, a Police Dive Unit and EC Government Health EMS Disaster Risk Management responded. The very remote location of the area and barely accessible terrain led to first responders arriving on the scene only at around 10h00.
As the morning progressed all efforts to get a helicopter rescue team to the site were made. SAAF 15 Squadron (Durban), SAAF 15 squadron Charlie Flight (Port Elizabeth), the EMS rescue helicopter (East London), a Police helicopter (East London), and an EMS helicopter (Umtata) remained on high alert throughout the morning in order that any one of the resources could be dispatched as soon as weather conditions improved. With the first break in the weather only coming after midday, and after an extensive search had already been carried out by Police and Disaster Management on the scene, and with no sign of the teenager despite the extensive search, the helicopter rescue effort was stood down.
Unfortunately adverse weather conditions have prevented any of the private aircraft willing to help in the search from taking off.
The teenager is missing and he is now presumed to have drowned.
His family in the United States are being kept informed and the United States Consulate have sent a team to the site to assist.
Police will continue an ongoing search operation and are investigating the incident.
Attempts will be made for a Police helicopter to join Police K-9 Search and Rescue and the Police Dive Unit in the ongoing search on Tuesday, weather dependant. Local aviators from the surrounding areas and from the Border Aviation Club have volunteered their private aircraft to join in the search subject to their availability and weather permitting. Local private aircraft in the area were grounded on Monday due to unfavourable weather.
Local community members and staff of the lodge will also continue a vigil of the area.
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