Paddlers fight for their lives

2011-03-05 00:00

TWO paddlers competing in the Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi were repeatedly swept under the water during a seven-minute life-and-death struggle against the river at the infamous Tombi Rapid yesterday.

Sboniso Shozi and Lindokuhle Jali were competing in the K2 of the one- day race when they failed to negotiate the huge Pinnacle rock that parts the Duzi’s flow in the notorious rapid. Their canoe capsized and they struggled to keep their heads above the water in the swirling eddies.

Dusi spokesperson Ray de Vries said a group of paddlers spotted an arm in the rapids and stopped to save the pair.

“The two were stuck inside their canoe and one paddler happened to be carrying a knife and managed to cut them loose. One was attended to by paramedics and handed over to his seconds while the other was taken to hospital, but was released after a short while,” said De Vries.

De Vries, who had blood on his face, said both paddlers were treated for shock and were in a stable condition. He said he was probably bleeding after being scratched by tree branches as they ran to the accident area.

During the Unlimited Dusi Marathon last month Peter Edmonds (55) almost drowned when he was trapped underwater at the same spot. He was in a K2 with Nicky Taylor, who managed to escape after they had miscalculated their move to beat the rock and could not swim against the powerful eddies formed by the Pinnacle.

Dusi legend Martin Dreyer said Tombi Rapid is trouble to most paddlers, especially to those who don’t know where it is. He said it becomes dangerous when the water levels in the river are high.

“It’s a steep drop from the top of the rock to the other side. My worst swim during my racing time was at Tombi, so paddlers should be cautious when approaching the spot.”

He said paddlers can portage the rapid as shooting it holds lot of risks.

De Vries said that other than the drama, conditions were ideal with temperatures around 37º Celsius. Michael Mbanjwa and Eric Zondi came first in the K2 in eight hours and 52 minutes.

Race report: page 42

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