Ian Gray, NSRI Port Elizabeth station commander, said: “At 14h00, Thursday, 26th November, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following a request for urgent assistance from the 29 meter steel Crayfish boat Baratz reporting to be taking water with no motor power and adrift at sea South East of Cape Recife, Port Elizabeth, with 25 crew onboard in rough sea conditions of 4 to 5 meter swells and up to 20 knots South Easterly winds.
NSRI Port Elizabeth launched our sea rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV and the casualty craft Baratz’s sister ship Helena Marie responded and the Xtreme Projects boat Scar Face carrying extra water extrication pumps was placed on stand-by in the lee outside the Port of Port Elizabeth.
On arrival on-scene it was found that the casualty crew had sealed their engine room which had waterlogged and the Helena Marie attempted to take the casualty craft under tow but the casualty craft Baratz listed and began to sink forcing her crew to abandon ship into life-rafts.
The SA Air Force 15 squadron – Charlie flight scrambled two BK-117 helicopters carrying NSRI Air Sea Rescue swimmers.
The TNPA tug boat Mkuze was activated and responded to the scene.
NSRI’s sea rescue craft and the Helena Marie initiated a search for two fishermen suspected to be missing after crew in the life-rafts were found to be safe and NSRI were satisfied that the search for the suspected missing crew took priority over attempting to transfer casualty crew from the life-rafts in the rough sea conditions.
Despite two life-jackets found floating on the sea surface (which led to fears that two fishermen may be unaccounted for) it was then confirmed that 1 casualty crewman had been rescued from the surf by an NSRI rescue swimmer.
That casualty crewman had failed to make it into the life-raft and he had landed up in the water and he was being swept away by winds and currents at the time, wearing a life-jacket.
The NSRI crew aboard Eikos Rescuer IV spotted him and chased after him, deploying a sea rescue swimmer into the water to secure him, before he was taken aboard NSRI’s Eikos rescuer IV.
15 casualty crew were then confirmed to be in one life raft and 9 casualty crew were confirmed to be in a second life-raft.
By numbers the tally appeared to indicate that all casualty crew were accounted for but in the rough seas a boat to boat transfer of casualty crew was deemed unsafe.
An NSRI rescue swimmer was deployed from the sea rescue craft onto the life-raft to coordinate the safe rescue of casualty crew from the life-raft’s.
NSRI ASR rescue swimmers were deployed from the two SAAF helicopters into the water and in relays, one at a time, casualty crew were taken out the life-rafts into the sea, swum away from the life-raft, in the care of the rescue swimmer, and hoisted aboard the helicopters (in relays) and brought ashore and landed behind Something Good at Pollock Beach (Main Port Elizabeth Beachfront) where NSRI rescuers and EC Government Health EMS personnel were on hand to triage (medically assess) casualties as they were landed and disembarked from the rescue helicopters before the rescue helicopters returned to the scene to rescue more crew from the life-rafts and to rescue some of the casualty crew that had been transferred onto the sea rescue craft.
All crew have been brought to shore safely aboard the SAAF helicopters and a roll call confirms that all casualty crew are accounted for and safe and in the care of EMS paramedics and NSRI rescuers.
All casualty crew have been transported to local hospitals by EMS ambulance as a precautionary measure for further medical assessment but all appear to be medically fit despite their ordeal.
It appears that the Crayfish boat Baratz has sunk.
The cause of the vessel taking water and sinking will be investigated by SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority).
The tug boat Mkuze is attempting to recover the two life-rafts.
All services involved in the rescue operation are commended for their swift action today.
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Short video clip on PE Herald Facebook page
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