Marc Rodgers, NSRI Plettenberg Bay station commander, said:
At 20h53, Sunday, 21st January, NSRI Plettenberg Bay Swift Water Rescue Team were activated following a request for assistance from the Mountain Club of South Africa – Garden Route Division (MCSA), engaged in a search and rescue operation for 4 people suspected to be trapped and missing on the Bloukrans River approximately 10 km upstream from the Bloukrans River Mouth.
MCSA, WC Government Health EMS, SA Police Services and SA National Park rangers (SANParks) had been activated earlier and MCSA were initiating to go upstream from the Bloukrans Weir, at Bloukrans Bridge, and requested NSRI swift water rescue to assist for safety.
It appears that a group of 6 people, believed to be from the Eastern Cape, had reportedly gone “kloofing” on the river from quite a distance upstream and had apparently expected to reach the river mouth in a day.
The man and woman, aged 60, who raised the alarm and who were at Bloukrans Weir at Bloukrans Pass (reportedly only a third of the distance that they had expected to cover that day) reported that the missing 3 men (aged in their 60’s and 70’s) and a woman (age 27), had been left behind unable to keep up with them, and that the missing 3 men and a woman were still upstream and were now suspected to be missing upstream.
The 2 who raised the alarm, the woman (wearing only a wet suit) and the man (wearing only shorts) gave us the impression that they may not have been properly equipped for an adventure of this nature.
It appears that their plan had been to drift, swim and float downstream, kloofing along the way. But in a thunderstorm and near flood conditions, with rapids and uncertain terrain and barely accessible terrain they had then been separated. It appears that they may not have been prepared for the conditions they were confronted with and with some of the missing reported to be in only wet suits and some in only a costume raised concerns for their safety.
Teams of rescue crew (made up of 5 MCSA crew and 2 NSRI swift water rescue crew) in wet-suits, helmets, headlamps, rescue torpedo buoys and our NSRI swift water rescue gear began to wade, swim and negotiate trails to search upstream. In very difficult conditions, an electric thunderstorm, heavy rain downpours and challenging terrain with the ever present threat of flash floods the rescue teams slowly made their way upstream.
During the search we found 2 men and the woman, and they reported that the missing 77 year old man was too slow for them so they had left him behind to make his own way at his own pace.
Those 3 were brought downstream to safety while we continued to search for the missing 77 year old male.
During an ongoing search the 77 year old was found by a rock pool. He was brought to safety.
Once all were brought to safety and reunited and accounted for they required no further assistance.
Earlier in the day, at 15h30, at Main Beach, Plettenberg Bay, in front of our NSRI Plettenberg Bay sea rescue station, our deputy station commander Robbie Gibson, at our NSRI base at the time noticed 3 young men caught in rip currents.
He launched a NSRI Malibu rescue board, recently purchased to be strapped to our rescue vehicles that patrol the beach, and went to their assistance rescuing one of the young men bringing him safely to shore.
By that stage lifeguards had arrived on the scene and they rescued the remaining 2 young men.
All 3 were safe and required no further assistance.
Michael Saunders, NSRI Hartbeespoort Dam station commander, said:
At 20h00 on Sunday 21st January the NSRI Hartbeespoort Dam duty crew were activated after a call was received from a concerned friend of a young man reported to be stranded on a Jet Ski in the vicinity across from Peacanwood Estates on the dam after the Jet Ski had reportedly suffered mechanical failure and he was battling to get ashore and had not arrived back as intended.
His friends had called him on his phone after they had returned from jet-skiing and he had said he was battling because of the motor mechanical failure to his jet-ski so they raised the alarm.
Our rescue craft Rotary Endeavour was launched.
Whilst the search was underway in limited visibility due to rain, a call was received letting us know that the young man had made it ashore and was reunited with his friends and he was safe and no further assistance was required.
Our rescue craft Rotary Endeavour and the crew returned to base and stood down at 21h30.