Bather drowns, two missing as lifeguards kept busy

2012-01-03 00:00

WITH beaches from Scottburgh to Ramsgate packed to capacity on New Year’s Day, volunteer lifeguards had their hands full to keep what one visitor described as “terminally stupid” tourists of all ages from swimming in dangerous areas amid strong currents and in high swells.

In just one example of the sterling service rendered by the volunteers, three men from Newlands in Durban were rescued by lifeguards and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) on Shelly Beach on Sunday afternoon.

One of the men was rescued from the surf and treated for near drowning after rip tides dragged them from the shore.

But tragedy struck the families of at least three other bathers, who were reported missing or drowned along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.

Craig Lambinon, spokesperson for NSRI, said a woman in her twenties drowned at about 6.36 pm on Sunday evening on Shelly Beach after she and a male companion were swept out to sea by rip currents. Lifeguards and NSRI pulled them from the surf, but were unable to resuscitate the woman.

The male swimmer was not hurt.

At Cape Vidal near St Lucia on the North Coast one bather was reported missing, presumed drowned.

And at Pennington main beach yesterday, a 10-year-old boy was missing and presumed drowned.

At Mtunzini beach on Sunday afternoon a crowd became aggressive when rough surf prevented volunteer NSRI lifesavers from putting their rescue craft to sea after a bather was reported missing. Lambinon said the police told the volunteers to leave the beach as the crowd was too aggressive for the police to ensure the volunteers’ safety.

Police divers and members of KZN Nature Conservation yesterday continued the search for the missing bather.

Gauteng visitor Koos Jonker (24), who carried to shore an exhausted young boy who was floundering in the crashing surf at Doonside, was scathing in his view of most Gautengers: “It’s a miracle that more people don’t drown. Just look at them. They swim outside designated areas, or learn to surf near the rocks, or just stand with their back to the enormous waves — either they have no fear or are being terminally stupid!”

Leon Garbade of Tower 13 Lifeguards said many visitors were beginning to head back to work today and beach activity had started to die down. “There is still a bit of activity on the beaches, but it is not as busy as it was over the weekend.

“By this week we should see the crowds thin out quite a bit.”

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