Ryan Meyer, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty controller, said:
Just after midday, Saturday, 03 March, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew and the NMB (Nelson Mandela Bay) Water Emergency Rescue Network were activated following reports of multiple persons in difficulty in the surf at Cape Recife.
An NSRI rescue vehicle, NSRI rescue swimmers, Coastal Water Rescue Unit, EC Government Health EMS, the EMS Aeromed 3 helicopter, NMB Beach Office managers and lifeguards, NMB Fire and Rescue Services and the SA Police Services responded.
A group of around 80 young adults, from Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and surrounding areas, had gone into the water to cool off at a beach that is not patrolled by lifeguards. It is believed that they were on a hike from Humewood to Cape Recife
On our arrival on the scene it was found that at least 5 men remained in difficulty in the water.
It appears that 3 young men got into difficulty in the water about 300 meters out after they had waded over the reef to swim and were caught in rip currents. 4 young men, from the same group, had gone into the water to try to help. 1 of the original 3 had reached safety and he had raised the alarm. A young woman had also waded out to try to help.
NSRI rescue swimmers found those still in the water clinging to rocks and attempting to assist each other.
NSRI rescue swimmers Jean Roussouw and Steven van den Berg entered the water and were able to assist the casualties from the water.
NSRI medics initiated medical treatment. Paramedics and rescue personnel took over and treated them for non-fatal drowning symptoms as well as scrapes and bruises.
One young man was airlifted to hospital by EMS Aeromed 3 helicopter. Two men and a woman were transported to hospital by EMS ambulance. They are all in a stable condition and are expected to recover fully.
Additional persons that had been in the water were treated for scrapes and bruises and required no further assistance.
All casualties are accounted for.
It has been reported that this is a regular monthly gathering and that most of the people in the group have been to Cape Recife in the past and are familiar with the terrain. They are all aged in their early 20’s. It is believed that all those who had been in difficulty in the surf are from NMU and live in Port Elizabeth.
The quick response of the Water Emergency Network is commended.
NSRI are urging caution around the coast with the full moon Spring Tide that will affect the coastline with stronger than normal rip currents into the first half on the new week.