Three youths were recently rescued by the NSRI Wilderness duty crew amidst strong winds on Island Lake.
The life-saving advantages of both properly fastened life jackets and the RSA SafeTRX app were highlighted recently when three young adults – two males, aged 21 and 20, and a female, aged 20 – were rescued from their capsized kayak on Island Lake, Wilderness.
According to Mike Vonk, Wilderness Station Commander (Station 23), NSRI Wilderness duty crew were activated following eye-witness reports of the three waving towards the shore for help, alongside their partially submerged kayak, in strong winds and choppy conditions.
“The NSRI craft Oscar’s Rescue was towed to the scene by our rescue vehicle, while three NSRI rescue swimmers and Western Cape Government Health Emergency Medical Service (EMS) responded directly to the scene,” says Vonk.
The second rescue swimmer to arrive responded to the scene on his mountain bike, as his vehicle was in for a service that day – he still made it from home to the scene, with his fins in hand, in 11 minutes!
“The Air Mercy Service (AMS) Skymed rescue helicopter was placed on alert by EMS Metro Control, and arrangements were made for the George Lake Yacht Club gate to be opened for access to Island Lake,” says Vonk.
On arrival, three NSRI rescue swimmers launched into the water, rescued the youths, and recovered their kayak. One of the male youths was treated for hypothermia by EMS paramedics and NSRI medics, and thankfully required no further medical assistance.
“The three were not wearing life jackets,” says Vonk. “If they had been, their chances of survival would have increased substantially because they would not have had to exert as much energy to stay afloat – energy that can make the difference between life and death in rescue situations – and they would have staved off hypothermia for longer.”
A well-fitted life jacket should fit snugly and comfortably. To check the fit, raise your arms once all the straps are fastened – the jacket should not rise above your ears. Life jackets should be worn at all times when in or near a body of water, whether you’re wading, fishing, boating or engaged in any other water-related activity.
“These three had a close call and luckily they were rescued in time. But only because an alert bystander raised the alarm,” says Vonk.
The NSRI’s RSA SafeTRX app would have allowed the youths to contact the NSRI directly, saving precious time. The free app monitors a vessel’s journey and alerts emergency contacts, who are nominated by the user, should they fail to return to shore on time. It also enables the user to plot their intended course, store essential emergency numbers that can be used by NSRI if you fail to return from your trip, gives NSRI your location at all times during your trip, gives the user the ability to call in an emergency with the push of a button, giving NSRI your exact position throughout their rescue response.
“We appeal to anyone launching any kind of craft onto the water to always assess the weather conditions first – on the day of the rescue, a very strong berg wind was blowing and the paddlers underestimated the strong winds and choppy water conditions – and to download the SafeTRX app. In addition, wear a properly fitted and fastened life jacket while your vessel is underway,” says Vonk. “Basic safety measures make all the difference.”
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