NSRI are urging paddlers, boaters and sail-boarders to download and use the NSRI RSA SafeTrx free cellphone application.
This free cellphone application, downloadable on the NSRI website www.nsri.org.za, enables the user to plot their intended course, store essential emergency numbers that can be used by NSRI if you fail to return from your trip, gives NSRI your location at all times during your trip, gives the user the ability to call an emergency by the push of a button and giving NSRI your exact position throughout our rescue response if you press the emergency button.
The NSRI RSA SafeTrx takes the “Search” out of a Search and Rescue Operation, said Brett Ayres, NSRI National Operations Manager. At any time, once you have plotted your trip and launched, we can see where you are and if you press the emergency button we can send rescue resources to that exact position, said Brett. If you don’t arrive at the time your plotted route ends we can check on you to see how you are doing.
On Tuesday, 09th January, at 10h55, NSRI Hermanus duty crew were activated following an eye-witness report of a paddler appearing to being swept out to sea while paddling off-shore of Betty’s Bay.
A quick search of SafeTrx, by MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre), showed no SafeTrx device being used at that time around the Cape Peninsula coastline.
The NSRI Hermanus sea rescue craft Jaytee III was launched and the NSRI Hermanus sea rescue vehicle responded to the area to investigate known launch sites looking for a vehicle with roof racks and investigating owners of vehicles found that may be related to a lone paddler at sea in that area at that time to find out if they were safe and if they may fit the description of what the eye-witness observed.
Paddling groups were alerted and experienced paddlers who live in the area arrived to assist NSRI in a search from the shoreline.
Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert on VHF radio requesting vessels and craft in that area to be on the lookout.
The AMS/EMS Skymed rescue helicopter was placed on alert and a serious mountain rescue call that WC Government Health EMS rescue were dealing with at the time, that required the Skymed helicopter, was considered to be aborted because of the serious nature of the extensive search area that a helicopter could assist to cover in the Betty’s Bay paddler suspected missing incident.
It was decided by rescue authorities to keep Skymed active on the mountain call because of serious injuries that a climber sustained. NSRI Hermanus rescue craft and shore crews carried on with the search for the paddler who was suspected of being swept out to sea at Betty’s Bay.
Decisions like this don’t come easy, said Dr. Cleeve Robertson, NSRI CEO. A decision like this weigh’s heavily on the rescue coordinators and all options are carefully considered but in this case the limited information we had on the paddler the potential life threatening emergency takes precedent while all available resources continued in an extensive effort to search for the paddler suspected to have been swept out to sea.
No reports of a paddler missing or overdue had been received and the credible eye-witness who saw the paddler appearing to to be in difficulty and appearing to disappear over the horizon at Betty’s Bay and eye-witnesses at Stoney Point who had witnessed the paddler fitting that description launching earlier in the day caused an intense search and rescue operation to continue throughout the afternoon but after all options had been exhausted and with still no reports of a paddler missing or overdue at 16h00 the search and rescue operation was suspended pending further information.
At around 17h00 a paddling group reported that one of the paddlers on their group had just confirmed that his dad had gone paddling earlier in the day, in that area, fitting the same description, but was safe at home following a paddle.
It was also learned that the paddler has SafeTrx but he had opted not to plot his route on his cellphone app RSA SafeTrx that day.
NSRI urge paddlers, boaters and sail-boarders to download and use the NSRI RSA SafeTrx cellphone app to avoid a similar incident like this one to happen again.
TO REPORT A SEA RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 112 FROM A CELLPHONE