At 18h20 on Saturday the 5th of March, NSRI Shelly Beach duty crew were activated following eye-witness reports of a multiple drowning in progress at Margate Beach.
NSRI Shelly Beach dispatched rescue swimmers to the scene and a Sea Rescue craft was launched from Shelly Beach. The SA Police Services including a Police Search and Rescue team, KZN Government Health EMS, Medivac ambulance services and the Hibiscus Coast Disaster Management responded.
Lifeguards had completed their duty for the day and the beach was unmanned at the time of the incident.
According to eye-witness reports, between 6 and 9 school learners were seen to be in difficulty in the surf and bystanders had gone to their assistance. It is believed that a group of learners accompanied by teachers and their Principal, from a Pietermaritzurg school, were at the beach on a school outing.
Bystanders Adriaan and Annamarie Muller, on holiday in Margate from Witbank, were driving in the vicinity when they noticed a group of children in deep water being swept out to sea towards rocks. They ran to assist and Adriaan, assisted by other bystanders, was able to pull 6 children out of the water onto rocks.
Two men, who are believed to be off-duty Durban lifeguards, swam out to assist and they were able to pull two girls out of the water. Once on the beach CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) efforts commenced. NSRI, Police and paramedics continued with CPR on the 2 girls, aged 15 and 16, but sadly after all efforts to resuscitate them were exhausted, they were both declared deceased on the scene.
A 17 year old male was witnessed floating face down in the water but despite best efforts, the teenager has not been found and he remains missing at sea and sadly he is presumed to have drowned.
The bodies of the two deceased females were taken into the care of the Forensic Pathology Services and a Police Search and Rescue team will continue with an ongoing search operation for the missing male teenager. Lifeguards will assist Police Search and Rescue in the ongoing search on Sunday.
Police Trauma Counsellors attended to the school group and Police will open an inquest docket.
Adriaan and Annamarie Muller, and the two unidentified gentlemen who assisted to rescue the 2 girls, and other bystanders who assisted, are all commended for their efforts.
(It was not immediately clear if some of the children assisted were part of the school group or children who had gone in to assist those in difficulty. The two who drowned, aged 15 and 16, are confirmed to be from the school outing. They were both later declared deceased following extensive CPR efforts. The 17 year old, confirmed to be from the school outing, remains missing and he is presumed to have drowned.
Sincere condolences are expressed to the families of the deceased following this tragic incident.
The NSRI WaterWise Academy teaches children basic water safety. We teach children how to avoid danger in or near water, what to do in an emergency, who to call for help, how to do peer rescue and Hands On CPR. The interactive presentation is given on school premises at no charge. Watch a video on the WaterWise Academy here. We have taught over 950 000 children since 2006. Our 10 Instructors and 9 volunteer Instructors are based around the country and visit classrooms in needy communities. You can see a breakdown of our statistics here.
NSRI continue to urge the public to swim at beaches only when and where lifeguards are on duty and school groups visiting the coast are urged to take learners to beaches only when and where the beaches are supervised by lifeguards on duty.
Some details in this NSRI media statement may change or be further clarified as Police investigations into the incident intensify and additional eye-witnesses accounts progress.
TO REPORT A SEA RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 112 FROM A CELLPHONE