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NSRI EMERGENCY
OPERATION CENTRE (EOC)

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Etienne van Zyl, NSRI Umhlanga coxswain, said: At around 12h00, Sunday, 31 March, NSRI Umhlanga crew arrived at Umhlanga main beach – where we were preparing to conduct routine surf training with our NSRI Umhlanga rescue craft JetRib, Victor Daitz.

The eThekwini lifeguards, at Umhlanga main beach, were already on duty and we agreed to join each other on a joint rescue training exercise (this kind of thing very regularly takes place and we often together engage in joint rescue operations).

eThekwini lifeguards were patrolling the beach, at the time, and their safer demarcated swim zone flags were in place, and it was really just a normal beach day, good weather, some public members were enjoying the surf and they were swimming and wading in the water.

Myself and eThekwini senior lifeguard MJ Mkhize launched the rescue craft for some initial surf training – the eThekwini lifeguards were showing us where the sand dunes regularly form beneath the water surface – where there are rocks semi submerged (referred to in maritime terms as “blinders”) and the NSRI crew and the eThekwini lifeguards, on the beach, were sharing knowledge and experience. It was just really a common routine joint rescue training exercise!

While our rescue craft was in the surfline we noticed 2 young girls getting slightly swept across the beachline and approaching what we could clearly see as a rip current, but in the water swimming, the girls definitely would not have noticed. This commonly happens.

The lifeguards and our crew on the beach had also noticed the 2 girls being naturally swept by side sweeping natural currents towards the rip current.

There was no real cause for any major alarm – we gently coaxed them – with hand signals – to swim across and away from the rip current – clearly they understood and were in the process of doing so.

It was indicated to them to swim in a direction – to avoid the rip current – by myself and MJ, and by our crews on the beach.

It was obvious that they had started to swim away from the rip current but as is the case in the surf – where there are incoming waves, sideways drift currents and the outgoing tide – even though it was low tide at the time, just by chance and the confluence of circumstances both girls were caught by the rip current.

They were clearly in difficulty and at risk of being swept out to sea – they hade started to indicate and shout for help while tryting to escape thye rip current.

MJ and myself, on the rescue craft, quite quickly reached them both and they both climbed onto our rescue JetRib.

At the same time, a young male found himself drifting towards the same rip current and equally unavoidably he got caught by the rip current so we picked him up as well.

It all started and was over in minutes.

They were brought closer to shore where they climbed out the rescue craft and they carried on swimming.

The effort was captured on video.

In both cases, of the 2 girls and of the young man, they appeared to be good swimmers, and would most likely have escaped the rip currents and gotten back to the safer swimming zone, but just coincidental that NSRI and eThekwini lifeguards were doing joint training at that place at that time that a “typical” lifeguard preventative rescue effort took place without incident.

NSRI, lifeguards and the emergency services are appealing to coastal bathers to Swim at beaches protected by lifeguards. Swim in between the safer demarcated swimming zones posted by lifeguards using their red and yellow flags.

MJ Mkhize, eThekwini Municipal senior lifeguard, said, We reiterate the close working relationships between lifeguards, NSRI and the emergency services, that combine in our mission to saving lives on South African waters, said MJ!


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