Flooded Tugela: three saved, one missing after rafting accident

2011-01-04 00:00

MEMBERS of the police search-and-rescue team failed to find a 15-year-old boy who went missing following reports on Sunday of a raft wedged on a sand bank in the middle of the Tugela River.

They searched for him the entire day yesterday.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge said there were widespread incidents of drownings in KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend. “A truck carrying four passengers in the area of Dondotha in Zululand was stuck in Umfolozi River. How­ever, members of the police search-and-rescue team were able to rescue all of them and no one was hurt.”

The teenager and three other people were reportedly on the raft, which became stuck on a sandbank in the middle of the Tugela River between the N2 and the Tugela River mouth, said Clifford Ireland, Durban station commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

Ireland said that at 8:20 pm on Sunday NSRI stations in Durban and Richards Bay, the police search-and-rescue unit, the police air unit, Netcare 911 ambulance service, Ballito lifeguards and KwaDukuza municipal lifeguards responded to the call to help.

Ireland said: “On arrival on scene all three people were found clinging onto a small SeaMaster five-man raft wedged on a sand bank in the middle of the Tugela River.

The 39-year-old man, two 14-year-old boys and the teenager had been river rafting.

“They were rescued by a police helicopter, which landed on the centre sand island in the river, and they were brought to the river bank where the survivors were taken into the care of our NSRI rescue personnel. They were treated for hypothermia and shock.”

Ireland said it was not clear if the three are related. The NSRI took them to be united with family members at Mandeni Toll Plaza. It is believed they are all from the Tugela area, he said.

“An extensive search for a … 15-year-old male, who reportedly was swept off the raft while it drifted downriver in flood-swollen waters, revealed no sign of the missing teenager,” he said.

Mdunge said the police search-and-rescue team continued with their search yesterday morning for the missing boy until late in the afternoon.

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