Rescuer Robin rewarded

2015-06-02 06:00
Rescue swimmer Robin Fortuin with his mother Colleen Fortuin from Southfield at an award ceremony where his bravery was acknowledged.

Rescue swimmer Robin Fortuin with his mother Colleen Fortuin from Southfield at an award ceremony where his bravery was acknowledged.

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The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) honoured crew member Robin Fortuin this month as he was formally awarded with the Gallantry Award, silver class in a ceremony at the NSRI Strandfontein rescue base.

Fortuin was also awarded the department of transport’s South African search and rescue Meritorious Award for “demonstrating extreme bravery, courage, selflessness and exceptional skills during a search and rescue mission”.

The awards are in recognition of his tireless efforts to save the lives of six swimmers who were swept out to sea by a riptide at Monwabisi Beach on 1 December 2013.

His family, friends and the crew of NSRI Strandfontein celebrated this acknowledgement with him.

An experienced rescue swimmer from Muizenberg, Fortuin trained with the NSRI Strandfontein crew for seven years and currently works as a lifesaver in Abu Dhabi.

The 23-year-old Fortuin returned home to receive his award and also to film a re-enactment of the dramatic rescue.

Sadly, a seventh bather lost his life that day, as he went under before Fortuin could reach him. “I will never forget that day. I managed to save six people, but I will always remember the soul that was lost. I don’t believe one can ever get used to it when a life is lost, but it is a reality of the job.” says Fortuin.

“I am grateful for the love and support [I get] from my family. Volunteering often means that I get to spend less time with them. I also have to give credit to the amazing crew at NSRI Strandfontein, because I would not have been able to do what I did without the support and guidance from my crew. Everyone who had a hand in my training prepared me to deal with the pressures of the day. These awards are for them as well.”

Volunteers at NSRI Strandfontein are responsible for their own physical fitness to meet the demands of the job. They often have to deal with physically high-risk situations, such as the rescue which Fortuin – only 21 years old at the time – was involved in.

The crew are also faced with strain on their mental and emotional well-being while performing their duties.

NSRI Strandfontein’s station commander, Mario Fredericks, says he is proud of his crew and hails them as valuable assets to the community. He says that this level of commitment is exactly what they look for and need from their volunteers.

“Volunteering for Sea Rescue requires the commitment to consistently report for duty each Sunday and the onus is on each crew member to focus on developing the skills needed to effectively deal with an emergency. Fortuin, fully committed to his training, and the senior crew who trained him, can be proud of his achievements,” says Fredericks.

“I am very proud to be part of NSRI Strandfontein. The crew is committed and it is with their help that heroes like Robin are born. Even though Robin did this rescue alone, in the bigger picture, this was a team effort.”

NSRI Strandfontein works every day with 17 volunteer crew and 15 trainees, all of whom come from surrounding communities. Trainees have to study for an average of one year to qualify as crew. They commit to training duty every Sunday and are on call at all hours to respond to emergencies

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