Since its inception in 2017, the Pink Rescue Buoy project has been behind the rescue of more than 110 people.
“These are just the rescues we know of,” says the NSRI’s Drowning Prevention Manager, Andrew Ingram. “People have used the buoys to save someone and have simply hung them back up afterwards without anyone knowing.”
The premise behind the project is so simple and effective that one can see why it’s being adopted by more and more municipalities. Bright Pink Rescue Buoys are hung on strategically placed signs near bodies of water. If there is an incident and someone needs help, the buoys can be thrown to that person, providing emergency floatation. There are clear graphics on the sign that explains how to use the buoy. And, most importantly, the emergency number for the closest NSRI station is printed on the sign.
“There have been a lot of individuals sponsoring the buoys or buying them in memory of someone who has passed away,” Andrew says. “We’ve been very busy trying to put up as many Pink Buoys as possible as the demand has increased exponentially, which is amazing. The awareness in the community has really grown. Community members are seeing the buoys and are really looking after them as well.”
For Andrew, one donor who stands out is Mardus Strijdom, who was the 99th person rescued using one of the buoys at Clifton Fourth Beach. Mardus was about 40 minutes into a cold water swim with friends when he realised he had swum too far out. He tried to swim back to shore but began to struggle with the cold as he was suffering from hypothermia. His friends realised what had happened and signaled to people on the beach, who brought the Pink Rescue Buoy to Mardus. At one point the swell got the better of them but the buoy kept Mardus afloat, and they were able to get him back to shore.
“He very clearly says that if that Pink Rescue Buoy wasn’t there, he wouldn’t have survived. He has now become a real supporter of the programme. He’s done media interviews, including an amazing one with Good Things Guy, about the buoys. Not only is he now a huge advocate for water safety, but he raised R50 000 by challenging friends, family and businesses to support the programme,” Andrew enthuses.
“Through this donation we’ve been able to roll out the programme in areas that are high risk and where we haven’t had sponsorship, like the South Coast in KwaZulu-Natal as well as the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. KZN has the highest drowning statistics in South Africa, while Eastern Cape comes second.”
The buoys are now being used in Mozambique and are also being tested out in New Zealand.
“I have been talking to Surf Life Saving New Zealand for a good few months now and the first 25 Pink Buoys were sent to them two months back. They are doing a proof of concept for what they call Public Rescue Equipment. They looked at public rescue devices from three other countries and settled on our Pink Rescue Buoys. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see Pink Rescue Buoys around New Zealand. It’s amazing that an organisation as powerful and as recognised as Surf Lifesaving New Zealand has settled on our device,” Andrew says proudly.
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