News24

Lifesaver describes drowning tragedy

2012-03-26 08:40

Port Elizabeth - One of the lifesavers who tried to rescue 21 people who were swept away by a current at Bluewater Bay on Sunday, has described the incident as "incredibly traumatic".

Seventeen of them were members of the same rugby club. By late on Sunday night, one of the club members had been confirmed dead and five teammates were still missing, plunging the Port Elizabeth rugby community into mourning.

Brendon Helm, one of the lifesavers who helped to bring 15 people to safety at Bluewater Bay, described the incident on Sunday.

Desperate


“It is something I will always remember. Only eight of us and 21 desperate people with wide open eyes begging to come out. Some of us took out two or three at a time and almost got into trouble ourselves.”

Fernando Cain of the beach's management office said it had not been necessary to take the 15 rescued people to hospital, but they were treated for shock.

Motherwell Rugby Football Club team manager Mcdisi Mazamba said they had taken the team to the beach on Sunday morning for a last practice session before a tournament in Cape Town over the Easter weekend.

After running up and down the dunes for several hours, some of the team members took showers while others went to cool down in the sea.

Helm said the group had only been in the water for about 10 minutes when all hell broke loose. “Everything was peaceful, the sea was calm and they were up to their chests in the water. The next moment we just saw arms and hands in the air as the current swept them away.”

Lifesavers regional chairperson Dave Bamber said seven lifesavers were at the beach instead of the usual four.

“Bluewater Bay is one of the city’s safest beaches. It was the first time in 43 years that we had a drowning here.”

Current usually not dangerous

Helm said they were well aware of the current but it wasn’t usually dangerous. “As long as you remain calm, keep your head above water and try not to swallow too much water, it will take you and leave you a bit further on.”

"But unfortunately it didn’t happen like that this time. It was hell.”

He said some of the drowned men had clung to their arms for dear life while others held on to the lifesavers’ kayaks.

Bluewater Bay lifesavers club leader Gareth Catherine said the lifesavers were all heroes. “They put their own lives at risk without a moment’s hesitation. I am very proud.”

Claude Kleynhans, who was at the beach, said the tragedy happened within seconds. “When I looked again, all the swimmers had been pulled in and two were floating already. I immediately dived in and could get one out at least.”

The beach was closed for the rest of the day and counsellors arrived to assist the players, their family members and lifesavers to deal with the trauma.

National Sea Rescue Institute station commander Ian Gray said three of their rescue boats had helped search for the missing players. The search will continue on Monday.

The names of the deceased and missing have not been made public.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.

Comments
  • kgomotso.radise - 2012-03-26 08:48

    Very brave

      Foc - 2012-03-26 09:01

      Indeed very brave!! The reporting is SO bad .... "He said some of the drowned men had clung to their arms for dear life while others held on to the lifesavers’ kayaks" DROWNED men??

      Janice - 2012-03-26 09:55

      Very Very sad and tragic for all involved, condolences to the families. Well done lifesavers!!!

      Ernestine - 2012-03-27 08:46

      @Foc - maybe the reporter means the men who eventually drowned, had clung on for dear life. Think before you criticise...

  • Patrick Craw - 2012-03-26 08:54

    thoughts and prayers go out to friends and families

  • Linda Morifi - 2012-03-26 08:54

    Lifesavers you are our heroes.

      Sajid - 2012-03-26 09:36

      Why the hell are there thumbs down.

      Foc - 2012-03-26 09:58

      Sajid my thoughts exactly ... pity they such cowards that wont post a comment to justify their thumbs down

      Tammy - 2012-03-26 10:00

      thumbs down from trolls - ignore them

      claire.ranwell - 2012-03-26 10:53

      Those putting thumbs down are idiots

      atholl.hay - 2012-03-26 12:30

      Terrible tragedy and heroic lifesavers. The thumbs down count usually rises during school holidays. It's probably bored kids so just ignore...

  • nishan.sitlu - 2012-03-26 08:57

    RIP to those who did not make it. Well done to the lifeguards for saving those that they did!

  • Marion - 2012-03-26 09:04

    Well done to the lifesavers and others who put their own lives at risk to save those who were in difficulty. You did everything humanly possible against massive odds.

  • paddy.maloney - 2012-03-26 09:17

    THIS IS TRULY A SAD DAY FOR THE TEAM, BUT A GREAT DAY FOR THE LIFESAVERS, I AM ALMOST SURE THAT THE LIFEGUARDS ON DUTY WERE THE LIFEGUARDS FROM A CLUB WHO GIVE UP THERE SUNDAYS AND PUBLIC HOLIDAYS TO MAN THE BEACHES AROUND SOUTH AFRICA. AND GET VERY LITTLE IN RETURN.THEY ARE SOME OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD AND PEOPLE TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED. WELL DONE BLUE WATER BAY LIFESAVING CLUB YOU ROCK. PADDY MALONEY AMANZIMTOTI X LIFEGUARD

  • Sechaba - 2012-03-26 09:24

    sad story

  • bmsizvashata - 2012-03-26 09:28

    I cn't imagine five!!

  • Allan - 2012-03-26 09:38

    Whoever this d%*k is that is giving thumbs down on all the posts, I hope and pray your Conscience eats you alive!!! to all the family and friends of the victims my sincere condolences and a huge thumbs up to the life savers, you guys and girls are the best

      Peter - 2012-03-26 11:47

      It would probably help if we ignored them. Just attention seekers, nothing else.

  • Den - 2012-03-26 09:54

    VERY SAD

  • Tammy - 2012-03-26 10:00

    very very sad. Thanx to the brave life savers - I hope they get councilling t help them recover

  • Thandism - 2012-03-26 10:01

    Hoping that those missing will be soon found. Sending condolences to the families of the drowned players. It was indeed tragic.

  • Oliver - 2012-03-26 10:06

    so sad, im heartbroken for their families, one minute u are hobnobbing & the next u are dead, painful painful painful, heartfelt condolences to all loved ones & big ups to the lifesavers

  • Tshe - 2012-03-26 10:15

    Sad story indeed, we should give thanks and praise to all those life-savers who did everything possible to safe those who nearly drown to death.

  • robbieyahu - 2012-03-26 10:21

    sad tragedy !! all our condolences to the families of the missing and drowned .... and a very big thanx to the life-savers !!!you guys are realtime heroes !!! thanx for risking your lives by acting at once with little regard of your personal endangerment !!! you averted a massive tragedy by saving so many guys !!!! thanx to the local authoroties for having such an able group of life-savors !!!!! peace

  • Laurice - 2012-03-26 10:26

    Firstly, what an awsome bunch of life savers. Fantastic job well done. May you also recover from this traumatic event. To the Team that lost their team mates, I wish you all the strength for the future. To the Families who lost their loved ones, May you also be given enormous strength to get through this tragic time. yOU ARE IN MY THOYGHTS.

  • jody.beggs - 2012-03-26 10:32

    That's why you have to respect the ocean. Its all fun and games until somebody dies!

  • Sharon - 2012-03-26 10:39

    Really sad :'(

  • Joni - 2012-03-26 11:17

    Brings a tear to my eyes. Such a sad story and my condolences to the family and friends. A great loss to the greater rugby community as well. Yet this story speaks of tremendous braveness from the lifeguards who selflessly saved those they could. I take my hat off to you, God bless you all. They should all receive medals.

  • Claire - 2012-03-26 14:48

    This is very tragic, lifesavers, swimmers and families of those lost, praying for healing of your memories of that day. Thanks for your bravery and risks you did take, lifesavers!

  • Ashliegh - 2012-03-26 17:11

    life ne well done to the brave once

  • Virginia - 2012-03-27 01:18

    This is so sad, May God comfort those families and life guards!

  • leqabanyo - 2012-03-27 08:54

    Very frikky accident,condolescence to the team and the family.jho!

  • noxazizza.mcwabeni - 2012-03-27 22:45

    My mothr called me in tears c0z my brothr was soppose to be thr as he is one of the team members bt over slept nd couldn't wake up .I feel very sad I jst saw thm a day before this tragic nd nw I will neva see thm again I cnt express hw sad I feel fr the families of the missing victims nd the deseased I pray tht god take it in his hands to heal all the broken hearts nd bring comfort to all the lost soul , thnks god fr the lifesavers u guys r heros

  • Wesley - 2012-03-28 09:57

    As a lifeguard of Big Bay Surf lifesaving congrats to all of you guys IN Blue Water Bay... u guys showed the bravery and skill level people often dont see.... Just remember guys we cant save them all and a hard lesson it is...Us lifeguards are often over looked and critised but u guys showed everyone!! keep it up!!

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