Ian Gray, NSRI Port Elizabeth station commander, said: “At 19h57, Thursday, 12th November, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were activated following eye-witness reports of multiple red distress flares sighted off-shore of Port Elizabeth’s Summerstrand beachfront.
We launched our sea rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV and Coastal Water Rescue were activated to assist by going to the beachfront itself as observation for additional sightings to assist us to pinpoint the general heading of the red distress flares.
An extensive search operation commenced while the eye-witnesses, at a local restaurant, confirmed without doubt that what they saw were red distress flares and when beachcombers at Summerstrand were interviewed it came to light from beachcombers and from car guards that they had witnessed a group of people arriving at the beach and setting off around 10 Chinese lanterns believed to have been set off as part of a memorial service.
To be sure, and because the original eye-witnesses were adamant that what they had seen were red distress flares, and fearful that the red distress flare activation set off by persons in distress on the water may have coincided with the setting off of the Chines lanterns an extensive search operation continued but after no sign of anyone in distress could be found and after investigating boat launch sites for empty boat trailers and abandoned vehicles with paddle board racks but finding no signs of anyone overdue or missing and with no persons reported overdue or missing we suspended the search but we will continue to monitor the situation.
NSRI urge the public not to set off Chinese lanterns as they are too often mistaken as red distress flares besides also posing a potential fire and aviation hazard.
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