21 swept to sea off Port Elizabeth

2012-03-25 17:38
Port Elizabeth - Rip-currents swept 21 people, many of them Eastern Cape rugby players, to sea at Port Elizabeth’s Blue Water Bay Beach, NSRI Port Elizabeth said on Sunday.

The Port Elizabeth NSRI sent 3 rescue craft to join the large-scale rescue effort which included a helicopter, in response to the incident between Swartkops River and Coega harbour.

Ian Gray, NSRI Port Elizabeth station commander, said: "On arrival on-scene it was estimated that at least 21 people had been swept out to sea by rip-currents. Most of those swept out to sea are believed to be members of the local Motherwell Rugby Club.

"One person, recovered from the surf  has been declared dead. Five persons remain missing and they are presumed to have drowned."

He said they were all believed to be members of the Motherwell Rugby Club.

Fernando Cain, of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality beach manager's office, said that of the 15 people rescued, only a few were not associated to the rugby club.

Seven Blue Water Bay Life Saving Club lifeguards - five who'd been at the beach at the time of the incident, and 2 who had run to the scene from their duty post further along the coast - swam after those swept out to sea. 

Some of the lifeguards rescued up to 3 people at a time. Of the 15 people rescued alive none were required to go to hospital although some were treated for shock and near-drowning symptoms on the beach by paramedics.

Lifeguards and police remain on-scene continuing with an ongoing search for the 5 missing men and a police dive unit will continue the search on Monday with a Police K-9 dog unit.

In another incident at Port Elizabeth, a local resident,  Lesley Vermaak, drowned after falling from a boat on the Sundays River.

Gray said it appeared as if the boat had been in a tight turn when Vermaak, 35, fell out.

Also in the Eastern Cape, a Johannesburg man is feared drowned after being swept out to sea.

Geoff McGregor, NSRI East London station commander said they believed that the 22-year-old had been swimming with colleagues when the accident happened.


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