Dean Wegerle, NSRI Witbank Dam station commander, said:
At 12h25, Tuesday, 19th December, NSRI Witbank Dam duty crew were activated following reports from an NSRI Witbank Dam trainee who was on the scene at the Witbank Dam water falls downstream from the dam water sleuth on the Olifants River in the eMalahleni Nature Reserve where a group of local 7 males and females, aged between 17 and 25, were swimming in the river when the sluice gates were opened causing rapids and catching the group off-guard and trapping a 17 year old female on rocks in the middle of the rapids in the Olifants River.
We dispatched our NSRI swift water rescue team and a Police Dive Unit, Police Search and Rescue team and Legacy Emergency Specialists responded.
Once on the scene an NSRI rescue swimmer was posted on rocks near to the female who was reassured and advice given on how to brace against the flowing water – that NSRI rescue swimmer geared up to be prepared to jump in to rescue the teenager if it became necessary – and a rope system was set up in case she may have swept off the rocks and down the waterfalls by the swift water rapids while NSRI rescue swimmers and the Legacy Rescue Specialist team on each side off the river made preparations for a rescue effort.
The Legacy team assisted together with our NSRI rescue swimmers to devise a swift water rescue plan in case it became necessary while members were dispatched upstream to the Dam wall where Municipal authorities agreed to shut down the water sluice gates to stem the water flow but allowing us only a short window period in which to execute a rescue operation once water flow subsided before they would be forced to reopen the sleuth to prevent water pressure.
Once water flow subsided we were able to successfully rescue the teenager.
The Police team arrived as the female was being rescued and they assisted in the debriefing.
The teenager was not injured and no further assistance was required.
Pictures attached: By NSRI Witbank Dam – the rescue operation in progress and the teenager on rocks.