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At 10h00, Saturday, 23 December, NSRI Durban duty crew were activated following reports of a charter vessel, initially reported as having 12 passengers and 3 local crew, run aground on a reef just offshore of Vetchies Beach, Durban.

eThekwini lifeguards and LSA (Lifesaving South Africa) KZN lifeguard, on duty at Vetchies Beach, had responded using their lifeguard rescue craft and their lifeguard Malibu rescue boards.

eThewkini PRC (Parks Recreation and Culture) Law Enforcement and eThekwini Metro Police responded.

3 NSRI rescue craft, Spirit of Surfski 6, Spirit of Surfski 3 and Alec Rennie, were dispatched.

START ambulance services, Netcare 911 ambulance services, KZN Government Health EMS (EMRS), eThekwini Fire and Rescue Services, The SA Police Services, Police Sea Borderline Control and Police Search and Rescue responded.

A number of local vessels and 3 eThekwini rescue craft were assisting on the scene and they were joined by the 3 NSRI rescue craft.

On arrival on the scene it was found that at least 4 or 5 passengers had been evacuated off the casualty boat by lifeguards, who had swum the passengers, in life-jackets, to Malibu rescue boards and then floated them to lifeguard rescue craft on which they were brought ashore safely without incident.

A private vessel - Boss Express - had established a towline to the casualty craft but efforts to tow the casualty craft off the reef posed dangers and that effort was abandoned.

NSRI established a JOC (Joint Operations Command) on the water and KZN Government Health EMS rescue squad (EMRS), together with LSA KZN lifeguards, established a JOC on the beach.

eThekwini PRC Law Enforcement and the eThekwini Metro Police Bicycle unit, first responders to arrive on the scene, together with eThekwini Surf Lifesaving, assisted to initiate the alarm being raised and the response.

An LSA KZN lifeguard was instrumental in helping to established communications between all emergency services responding and attending.

An eThekwini lifeguard senior coordinator and an NSRI rescue swimmer were brought to the casualty craft, onboard an eThewkini lifeguard rescue craft, where they boarded the casualty craft.

There they initiated calm, assessed the situation and determined an action plan to get the remaining crew and passengers off the vessel after it became clear that the vessel would remain hard aground until at least high tide.

In a well coordinated rescue operation, the remaining crew and passengers were taken onboard eThekwini lifeguard rescue craft and an NSRI rescue craft - and they were safely delivered, in relays, to The Durban Undersea Club (DUC) dive boat which stood by on the scene assisting.

Once all crew and passengers had been delivered to the DUC dive boat - some were then ferried to the beach, and 13 were delivered to the NSRI rescue craft Alec Rennie - from the dive boat - delivered using an NSRI rescue craft and 2 eThekwini lifeguard rescue craft - as ferry boats.

PRC Law Enforcement and Metro Police assisted to receive a total of 8 casualties on the beach, as they were brought to shore by eThekwini lifeguards. These 8 passengers are locals.

The 13 passengers who had been delivered to the NSRI rescue craft Alec Rennie were transported to the Durban NSRI Station 5 Rescue Base. They are all locals (3 crew members and 10 passengers).

All passengers and crew, who were brought safely to the beach and/or safely to the NSRI rescue base were medically checked by paramedics.

All passengers and crew, which included 3 children, and totalled 21 crew and passengers, who were evacuated off the casualty vessel, and brought safely to shore, were not injured.

All passengers and crew were accounted for.

Only one passenger, a lady, was transported to hospital by ambulance for observation for a previous medical condition that is not related to the incident today.

SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority), TNPA (Transnet National Ports Authority) Durban Port Control, Telkom Maritime Radio Services and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) remained on alert during the rescue operation.

The casualty vessel remains hard aground on a reef and the owners are arranging a salvage operation to recover the vessel.

All emergency services, Police, Law Enforcement, Metro Police, lifeguards, NSRI and the private boats that attended - are commended for the swift action that prevented a maritime disaster.

The cause of the vessel running aground remains unknown and will be investigated by SAMSA.

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