At 14h30, Saturday, 19th November, NSRI Hartbeespoort Dam duty crew were activated following reports of the local ferry pleasure boat Prime Time on fire on the South Eastern side of Hartbeespoort Dam (near to Pecanwood Estate).
The ferry pleasure boat Prime Time, known as the “party boat”, was on the water with crew and passengers onboard at the time.
Eye-witnesses reporting seeing the aft of the boat, a 25 meter boat, alight with passengers moving towards the front of the boat.
Local boat clubs were activated and it appears that everyone with boats in the vicinity responded to assist. It is believed that around 25 to 30 private boats launched to assist with the rescue.
NECSA (Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa) who have emergency fire, rescue and ambulance teams at their nearby premises responded. The SA Police Services and a Police Water Unit responded. Hartbeespoort Emergency Rescue and Ambulance Services responded. Pecanwood Security activated local boats to respond. NSRI Hartbeespoort Dam launched the rescue craft Afrox Rescuer II.
From what we understand around 156 to 200 passengers and crew were onboard the ferry when a fire started from unknown causes. The exact number of people that were onboard the boat at the time of the incident had not immediately been established but it is believed that all passengers and crew are accounted for.
Earlier reports that one person may still be missing have been discounted and it is believed that all passengers and crew are accounted for.
Eye-witnesses raised the alarm after seeing the ferry on fire on the dam.
Private boats arriving on the scene first have reported arriving to a scene of chaos with people jumping off the boat into the water to escape the fire. It was reported that no one was wearing life-jackets but this could not be confirmed.
Private boats rescued passengers from the water and by transferring passengers from the casualty boat onto their private boats and bringing the rescued to the shore to safety. It is believed that after the fire was extinguished the boat was towed to the shore at Cosmos by two private boats.
Four women have been declared deceased.
It is believed that one woman, suspected to have been trapped in a toilet, may have succumbed to smoke inhalation and she has been recovered from the boat and declared deceased.
Three women reportedly succumbed to fatal drowning and their bodies have been recovered.
The bodies of all four deceased women were handed into the care of the Forensic Pathology Services.
The SA Police Services and SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) have launched an investigation and an inquest docket has been opened by Police.
Sea Rescue extends our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones.
TO REPORT A SEA RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 112 FROM A CELLPHONE