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In a show of strength and bravery, and what was a race against time - two lives that may have otherwise been lost to the sea were saved by three brave men.

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

“We were just in time”, said William Boltmann, one of the rescuer’s, “one or two minutes later and they would have gone down”.

On the cold and windy morning of April 2nd, 2021, at around 07:18 am, two fishermen were washed off the rocks at Rooi Els in the Western Cape.

A local NSRI Coastwatcher alerted three good Samaritans of the reported drowning in progress - urging them to launch their RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) quickly, knowing full well that in the freezing Cape waters, every second counts.

With no time to spare and without hesitation, the three men grabbed an NSRI Pink Rescue Buoy and launched their RHIB to save the fishermen's lives. The conditions were particularly dangerous on this day with big seas and strong winds.

The three men carefully considered how they would rescue the two fishermen in the water and using their years of boating experience managed to rescue the fishermen who were by this stage hypothermic and in grave danger of drowning.

On the 2nd of April 2021, William Boltmann, Richard Boltmann and Francois Koekemoer were preparing to head out to sea to go crayfishing when they were alerted by an NSRI Coastwatcher of 2 males, aged 27 and 19, who had been swept off the rocks and were being swept out to sea.

Their boating experience kicked in with Francois fetching the Pink Rescue Buoy at the Rooi Els slip before their boat was launched. Richard took the helm, and William the responsibility for getting the two casualties into the boat.

In the strong winds, the men struggled to throw the Pink Rescue Buoy so William had to enter the rough seas twice.

“I knew I had to act fast,” said William.

Armed with the Pink Rescue Buoy, he was able to pass the Buoy to one of the casualties who was then rescued onto the boat.

William then swam the rescue buoy to the second casualty.

Both men were successfully rescued under trying conditions because of excellent seamanship and solid teamwork from William, Richard and Francois.

“If we didn't have the Pink Rescue Buoy, the rescue would have been way more difficult, and we would have really put ourselves at risk”, added William.

“You would never think that a small Rescue Buoy like that could actually give the guy’s hope, because a minute or two later, they would have gone down”, said Richard.

“We raced back to the slipway where the NSRI and paramedics were on standby” added William.

The casualties, both from Kuils River, Cape Town were treated for non-fatal drowning symptoms and for hypothermia.

The NSRI awarded William, Richard and Francois, with an award on World Drowning Prevention Day - 25th July 2021, commending the swift action of the three brave men, who together contributed to saving the lives of the 2 casualties.

Think Pink - Pink buoys save lives

The Pink Rescue 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.

The buoys, which conform to the AUNZ standard of 100 Newtons of flotation, are hung on strategically placed signs and the NSRI said it hoped that the devices will remind people to take care when entering water.

To date the NSRI’s public rescue devices have been used to rescue 77 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 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, NSRI Executive Director of Drowning Prevention.

“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.”

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.

This rescue wouldn't have been possible without the support of our donors. Sponsor a Pink Rescue 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.

Media Queries:

Jessica Shelver

Duty Spokesperson

Email: | Cell: 076 175 0663

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