Safety At Sea. Two Lessons to Be Learnt


Two separate reports received from the NSRI with about a day of each other highlight, yet again, just how important it is to wear lifejackets or compact self-inflating personal flotation devices, and even to carry personal flares or PLBs (personal locator beacons).

Luckily the victims in these two incidents survived – although they are very lucky they did.

There are so many choices of personal safety devices on the market today that one wonders why people do not invest in them?

Although these two incidents involved power driven vessels, the lessons leant are as applicable to yachtsmen as they are to powerboaters.

Incident 1 (from Norman Rautenbach, NSRI Richards Bay duty coxswain)
At 15h42, Friday, 24th November, NSRI Richards Bay duty crew were activated following an alert from the crew of a commercial fishing ski-boat Rockerfella reporting that they had happened upon the ski-boat Ditto, found to be underway with one motor running on the water, about 8 nautical miles off-shore of Richards Bay, with no one onboard.

The crew of the Rockerfella had managed to raft their boat alongside the casualty boat (which was unmanned and with only one motor running, underway and heading out to sea) and a crewman from Rockerfella was able to board the casualty boat and cut the motor bringing the casualty unmanned boat to a stand-still.

They raised the alarm alerting NSRI and on investigation it was confirmed that the casualty boat, Ditto, was known to have launched from Richards Bay earlier that day at 07h00 and was due back at 18h00.

With no sign of the 2 crew (who were known to have been onboard) a full scale search and rescue operation was launched but with no one knowing the whereabouts of the 2 men, 26 year old Jaco Snyman and 49 year old skipper, Trevor O’Neill, both local men, and no idea as to why their boat was underway and unmanned.

Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert and Rockerfella had already started a search.

All vessels that were in the area at the time joined in the search and two NSRI Richards Bay sea rescue craft, Spirit of Richards Bay and Spirit of Round Table II, arrived on the scene to join in a search and rescue operation.

We treated this as a man overboard although not knowing the fate of the 2 men and still with no explanation as to why their boat was found with a motor running and underway.

Having no indication of where or when the skipper and his crewman had left the boat and with no indication of what may have happened a search covering the area from the direction in which the boat was heading was initiated.

At around 16h30 we received word from members of the public reporting to have seen 2 men walking along the beach between 5 miles beach and 7 miles beach and it was then confirmed that both the skipper and his crewman had come across members of RBM (Richards Bay Minerals) on the beach at 5 miles beach and at around 17h00 Trevor called NSRI from the RBM offices reporting that he and Jaco were safe and they had arranged a lift with RBM staff to get back to Richards Bay.

They reported that they had both fallen overboard after their boat hit a wave. Jaco had fallen backwards and grabbed a hold of Trevor but in the momentum of the stumble and fall had caused both men to go over the side of the boat.

Initially the boat was going around in wide circles but out of reach of the 2 men.

The boat had continued on its way without them and they were left behind facing the task of trying to swim ashore but without life-jackets.

It is estimated that they were about 2.2 nautical miles off-shore (4 km) (and 20 km North of Richards Bay – off-shore of the Groenkop mast tower).

It is estimated that they fell overboard at around 13h00 and they swam for about 2 hours and it is estimated that they were able to reach the shore at about 15h00 but being in a remote area they had walked along the beach until they came across the RBM staff who then help them.

During the swim Jaco had developed cramp and exhaustion and Trevor got Jaco to keep his lungs fill with air, for floatation, and Trevor dragged Jaco towards the shore.

Once ashore, in the vicinity of Hlabane, they rested and then started walking towards RBM knowing that eventually they would across someone to assist them.

When the boat was found by Rockerfella the boat was heading in a straight line and it is believed that with one motor not running from fuel starvation the drag of that motor caused the boat to head in one direction instead going around in circles.

They are both safe home and their boat was brought back to Richards Bay with the commercial ski-boat crewman at the helm and NSRI escorted the casualty boat back to Port.

Both Trevor and Jaco, who had been out fishing for the day when the incident occurred, were checked on during the night by NSRI as a precaution to monitor for secondary drowning and both men are reported to be fine and they require no further assistance.

NSRI commend the commercial ski-boat Rockerfella that came across Ditto and all of the craft and vessels that joined in the search are commended.

Incident 2 (from Andre Fraser, NSRI Mossel Bay station commander)
At 16h17, Sunday, 26th November, NSRI Mossel Bay duty crew were activated following reports of a suspected boat capsizing at The Point, Mossel Bay.

We dispatched our sea rescue vehicle and NSRI rescue swimmers to the scene and the sea rescue craft Blaze Rescuer was launched and ER24 ambulance services responded.

While responding to the scene it was confirmed to be a man overboard a rubber-duck.

The rubber-duck skipper, 50 year old Chad Henning, from Wilderness, had fallen overboard while the boat was under power, and his spear fisherman who was free diving from the boat, 48 year old Andy Foot, was reportedly still in the water diving.
Chad was run over by the boat and he has suffered a laceration to his left thigh caused by a rotating motor propellor and he was able to swim to the rocks where a member of the public raised the alarm.

Member of the public, Ruaan Jacobs, who raised the alarm was already on the scene providing first aid to Chad.

The spear fisherman Andy Foot also swam ashore and was not injured and the casualty boat (the rubber-duck) ran onto rocks.

NSRI initially attempted to recover the casualty boat from the sea side but when we spotted a shark in the water we chose instead to carry the casualty boat over the rocks to the land side where it was taken away by the owner.

ER24 ambulance services transported Chad to hospital in a stable condition.


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