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Pink Buoys Save Lives initiative marks 75th rescue since launch in 2019

The world’s first international Drowning Prevention Day was celebrated by the NSRI today, Sunday, 25th July 2021 with a flush of beach buoys strategically placed on Rocklands Beach, Sea Point.

NSRI World Drowning Prevention Day -25 July 2021

In November 2019, four young lives were lost at Rocklands Beach, when they were swept off the rocks. Tragedies like this are preventable, says Jill Fortuin, NSRI Director of Drowning Prevention.

“We are delighted to join the world today in recognizing drowning for the issue that it is. In South Africa, 1 500 people drown every year. 450 of those are children under the age of 14,” said Fortuin.

The NSRI marked the occasion with a display of over 200 Pink Rescue Buoys on Rocklands Beach in Sea Point, Cape Town. The number “75” was displayed on the beach to celebrate the 75 lives that have been saved using the Pink Rescue Buoys - since the Pink Rescue Buoy Project was launched in 2017 #PinkBuoysSaveLives

On 28 April 2021 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on drowning prevention that will see 25 July observed as World Drowning Prevention Day in order to promote water-safety awareness and encourage national action.

Following the World Health Organisation’s 2017 Report on Preventing Drowning, the NSRI launched their Pink Rescue Buoy campaign. To date the NSRI’s public rescue devices have been used to rescue 75 people with no harm to a rescuer and all rescues that were attempted were successful. Currently there are over 1000 Pink Rescue Buoys deployed around South Africa.

The most recent rescue using a Pink Rescue Buoy was at Rooi Els just past Gordons Bay where three men launched their boat to rescue two fisherman who had been washed off the rocks. They took the Pink Rescue Buoy with them and used it to rescue the two men who used the buoy to float and get pulled onto the boat.

Today, the NSRI handed over awards to these three brave men.

The men who received awards were:

NSRI CEO, Dr Cleeve Robertson presents Pink Rescue Buoy Awards to William Boltman, Francois Koekemoer and Richard Boltmann
  • William Boltmann
  • Richard Boltmann
  • Francois Koekemoer

William, Richard and Francois were preparing to launch their boat when they were alerted to the fishermen being swept off the rocks. They were unable to get back to shore because of the rough seas. Years of boating experience kicked in with Francois fetching the Pink Rescue Buoy at the Rooi-Els slip before the RIB was launched. Richard took the helm, and William the responsibility for getting the two patients into the boat.

The Pink Buoy was too light to throw in the prevailing conditions which forced William to enter the water twice. Each time Francois pulled the rescuer and his patient back to the boat with a line that was attached to the buoy. First the fisherman who had no flotation and second the man who was floating on a tube. Both men were successfully rescued under trying conditions because of excellent seamanship and solid teamwork from William, Richard and Francois.

Think Pink - Pink buoys save lives

The pink buoys are part of a lifesaving water safety initiative by the NSRI. The distinctive pink colouring of the rescue buoy is designed to stand out in water and provide emergency flotation. Pink buoys save lives.

“The Rescue Buoys are bright pink so that they can be easily spotted on the water by responding emergency services. There is also a unique location number on the signpost so that crucial minutes can be saved for emergency services to help those in danger of drowning,” says Jill Fortuin.

“Our message to water users and anyone who may find themselves in danger of drowning is simple: “Think Pink”, added Fortuin.

“If you ever see someone in danger of drowning, think: “pink is for buoys”. Find the pink rescue buoy, throw it into the water, help the person to float, save a life. You’ll find our buoys at beaches along the coast, inland dams and rivers right across South Africa. But please remember that a stolen buoy could be a stolen life.”

The NSRI is urging community members to become pink lifesavers, by reporting any missing pink rescue buoys to their Emergency Operations Centre on 021 434 4011. Your report could save a life.

Fortuin also urged water users to immediately call the emergency numbers on the Pink Rescue Buoy sign, or 112 from their cell phone for help if someone is in danger of drowning.

Water safety education: a key factor in drowning prevention

The NSRI has made a commitment to drowning prevention through its water safety education programme. Established in 2006, the programme targets the most vulnerable members of the South African community, children. In this country drowning rates are highest among children under four years of age, followed by children aged five to 14 years. In the case of very young children, 70% of drowning deaths take place in or around the home in ponds, pools, bathtubs and buckets. Drowning is silent and can occur within 20 seconds.

Fortuin agrees, saying that ‘the old adage of “prevention is better than cure” couldn’t ring more true when it comes to drowning’. But, she adds, ‘With drowning, it’s often not possible to “cure” the damage done. Prevention is therefore a major focus area for the NSRI.’

Since its inception, the NSRI’s Drowning Prevention Department has engaged with communities and community leaders, schools, policymakers, municipalities and the public to share knowledge, collaborate, educate and gather and fund resources to address this critical public health issue that is largely under-acknowledged and yet highly preventable.

As a result, a number of initiatives have been introduced targeting high-risk areas and communities across the country. These have taken the form of water-safety lessons in schools, pop-up survival swimming classes at public swimming pools, water-safety learning materials that are freely available, and the roll-out of Pink Rescue Buoys at public swimming areas like beaches and dams.

NSRI World Drowning Prevention Day -25 July 2021
75 lives saved by our #PinkRescueBuoy initiative to date and reaffirmed our commitment to prevent drownings through our education and preventative initiatives.

“The NSRI is proud of the difference that they have made in helping to reduce the number of drownings in South Africa. Since 2006, the NSRI has been teaching water safety in schools around the country. In total our 20 full-time water safety instructors have reached just over 3 million people (mostly primary school children) with our lessons on how to be safe in and near water as well as how to do bystander CPR”, explains Fortuin

More recently the NSRI launched their Survival Swimming programme where their professional instructors and volunteer instructors give free lessons to children, teaching them how to control their breathing, orientate themselves in water, float and propel themselves at least five metres through the water.

The NSRI continues to address this critical issue through innovative teaching, targeted campaigns and community participation.

Anyone can save a life - with a pink buoy.

You can save lives too by sponsoring a Pink Rescue Buoy for a community in need at a cost of R1500 per buoy, or by supporting the NSRI’s drowning prevention initiatives.

You can see the various way to donate here:

Your generosity will help future generations enjoy water safely, and save lives.

If you would like to volunteer and assist the NSRI in protecting and maintaining the buoys, please contact

Media Queries:

Jessica Shelver

Duty Spokesperson

Email: | Cell: 076 175 0663

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