Quentin Power, NSRI Ballito station commander, said:
At approximately 07h30, Saturday, 27 Match, while conducting routine training exercises off-shore of Ballito, NSRI Ballito duty crew were activated following reports of a vessel that capsized, with 4 local fishermen onboard, while exiting the Tugela River Mouth to go fishing.
The Tugela River is still in flood due to recent heavy rainfall.
It was reported that 2 casualty crew were in the water and 2 casualty crew were on the upturned hull of the capsized vessel.
The vessel was being swept further out to sea in strong currents caused by the Tugela River outgoing flow and draining tide compounded by the full moon Spring Tide.
By that stage they were approximately 1 nautical mile off-shore
NSRI Ballito duty crew responded by sea with our sea rescue RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) Freemasons Way while our NSRI sea rescue vehicle, with shore crew and NSRI rescue swimmers onboard, responded by road.
The KZN Water Rescue Network was alerted by NSRI Durban.
On our arrival on the scene we found 2 local private craft, Mayana and Klein Meisie, were in attendance at the casualty craft together with the Tugela Lifesaving lifeguards, who had paddled out from the beach on their Malibu Rescue boards.
Together they had rescued the 2 casualty crew from the water and they had taken the 2 casualty crew from the upturned hull of the casualty craft onto the private boats and the casualty were safe and all accounted for.
Together they had assisted to right and secure the casualty craft.
Due to the extreme conditions in the river mouth we transferred NSRI crew onto the casualty craft and they prepped the casualty craft to be towed and a securing line was established from one of the private craft (that was in attendance) to prevent the casualty craft from drifting.
NSRI took 3 casualty crew onboard our NSRI sea rescue craft and we entered the river mouth.
Due to the rapid draining tide we only had a 5 meter channel to navigate in and out of the river mouth with sand bars on either side of the river which made navigating in the extreme conditions challenging with standing waves and wave sets breaking on the river bank in only knee deep water.
The 3 casualty crew were transferred onto the shore where IPSS paramedics assessed the 3 casualties and one man had a slight shoulder injury but otherwise they were not injured.
NSRI then re-launched the sea rescue craft Freemasons Way and we headed back out through the river mouth to fetch the 4th casualty crewman to bring him to shore.
After navigating the challenging conditions exiting the river mouth and returning to the private craft that were now standing by off the backline it was noted that the drop of the tide had made the re-entry into the river mouth even more hazardous so a plan was devised to avoid the dangerous conditions in the river mouth and instead beach approximately 1 kilometer North of the river mouth through the surfline into a small channel situated between the rocks and sandbanks.
The 4th casualty was brought safe through that channel onto the beach. He was assessed by paramedics and he was not injured.
We then re-launched from the beach through the challenging surfline and we took over the towline of casualty craft from the private vessel Mayana.
Before attempting to tow the casualty craft to shore we proceeded to drain water out the hull of the casualty craft.
We then towed the casualty craft to shore North of the river mouth.
The casualty vessel was recovered to her trailers with the assistance of local Tugela Ski-boat Club members.
No further assistance was required and the team stood down to return to base.
NSRI commend ski-boats who went to the assistance of the casualty crew and safely rescued them.
We commend the Tugela lifeguards, who paddled out in challenging sea conditions on their Malibu Rescue boards, for their assistance on the scene.
We commend the Tugela fishing community and the Tugela Ski-boat Club members, with the assistance of their tractor, to recover the boats from the beach and we commend all of the emergency services that attended at the scene for their assistance.