Quentin Power, NSRI Ballito station commander, said:
At 21h00, Wednesday, 10th June, NSRI Ballito duty crew were activated following simultaneous eye-witness reports to NSRI Ballito and to NSRI EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) of a suspected drowning in progress off-shore North of Virginia airfield.
Our NSRI sea rescue vehicle, towing our sea rescue craft Rescue 41 Alpha, and Durban Metro Police Search and Rescue responded.
NSRI Durban duty crew were activated and dispatched NSRI rescue swimmers directly to the scene and the NSRI Durban sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski 6 was launched.
Additional calls were received from eye-witnesses reporting that a light which could be seen flashing on the water, approximately 300 meters off-shore, behind the breaker line, suggesting to us that the flashing light beam may be coming from a fisherman in distress or a person flashing a light towards shore perhaps as a distress signal from a craft or from a person in the water, but the exact nature of the suspected distress flashing light remained unknown.
Rescue swimmers arriving on the scene could see the shadow of a light beam coming from the water suggesting that the light beam was sinking beneath the water surface.
Our sea rescue craft Rescue 41 Alpha was launched on the scene with an NSRI rescue swimmer and a Metro Police Search and Rescue rescue diver onboard.
The NSRI Durban sea rescue craft arrived on the scene to join in the search.
As sea rescue craft were arriving at the estimated location of the the light beam it appeared to have disappeared under water raising fears that a person possibly wearing a headlamp may have disappeared under water.
An extensive search operation commenced.
The tide conditions and the slope of the shoreline sand bank combined to create tricky search conditions in the incoming wave sets in the dark.
Strong rip currents were observed and the search area was extended from the shoreline to up to approximately a nautical mile off-shore.
A Netcare 911 helicopter, returning to her base from an earlier medical call, used remaining fuel reserves to assist in the search operation with an aerial search.
After approximately an hour and forty minutes into the search a small remote control bait boat was located by crew on our sea rescue craft and was found floating semi-submerged in the water approximately 800 meters off-shore and the small bait boat was recovered from the water onto a sea rescue craft.
The bait boat had 2 cyalume lights attached, one on the antennae and one on the deck, and we are confident that this bait boat and the lights from the cyalume sticks bobbing up and down on the water were what eye-witnesses had been observing when they raised the alarm.
The bait boat was brought to shore and has been taken into the care of NSRI Durban.
Despite efforts to find the owner no one has come forward to claim the bait boat.
No persons are reported to be missing or overdue and NSRI and Metro Police Search and Rescue are confident that no further assistance is required although efforts are continuing to investigate to determine the origin of the small bait boat and determine the owner of the bait boat.