Smartphone saves the day in sea rescue

2012-01-26 10:15

Durban - Holidaymaker Danie Coetzer says his wife always tells him Google is his best friend and that he’s a techno-freak.

Now two boogie boarders - who were swept out to sea off Ramsgate’s beach this week - can thank him for being such a Google-geek.

Coetzer, a Dubai-based pilot, spotted them more than 150m from the shore and used his iPhone to Google the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

This led not only to their rescue but also to Coetzer keeping in touch with the rescuers, telling them exactly where the pair were in the fading light.

When he, his wife, Sanreleni, and daughter, Nadya, arrived at the beach for an evening walk on Tuesday, no lifeguards were in sight.

They had knocked off for the day, said Coetzer.

'Technology really saved the day'

So they got on to his smartphone.

“My wife always says ‘Google is your friend’ and that I am a gadgets freak,” he laughed.

“This time technology really saved the day.”

Sanreleni added: “By that time it had already started to get dark and Danie had to go on to a rock peak to keep the guys in his sight.

“We couldn’t see them from the beach.”

Danie was in constant contact with the NSRI while their team made their way to the beach.

“I was updating them on how the guys were doing and how far out they were.”

A woman on the beach had run up to the Blue Lagoon to seek help and phone the police.


“The younger guy seemed like he was really struggling and tired and they looked like they were not going to make it,” Sanreleni said.

“I ran back to the Blue Lagoon to tell the police to please hurry up,” Sanreleni said.

Little Nadya said she was screaming out to the men to be careful.

“I kept telling them not to go near the rocks,” she said.

The body boarders also have the 6-year-old to thank for the family being at the right place - on the beach - at the right time.

“She was insisting on going for a walk,” said her mother.

“We tried to talk her out of it because it was late, but she insisted.

“Had she not, we wouldn’t have been on the beach.”

In distress

The Coetzers were quick to notice that the two needed help.

“We’ve been diving instructors so we know when someone looks to be in trouble in water,” said Danie.

“My wife and I noticed the guys looking distressed, so we said let’s watch them for a while.

“One of them whistled to get our attention and confirm that they were in trouble,” he said.

Police and NSRI arrived on the scene and rescued the pair, aged 25 and 15.

"They were treated for exhaustion and mild hypothermia,” said NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon.

He said an incident of this nature highlights again the importance of contacting the sea rescue authorities immediately when witnessing a sea rescue emergency.

“In this case only a few minutes’ delay may have spelt the difference between life and death.”

22 minutes

Sanreleni said it took about 22 minutes from the time Danie made the call until their rescue.

“It felt like eternity.

“I think the mother in me came out when I saw them on the shore.

“I didn’t know whether to scold them, or cry and hug them. I was just so happy to see them alive when they came to thank us.

“Ten minutes more and it could have all gone so wrong.”

The Coetzers, who are from Centurion but now live in Dubai, are on holiday in Ramsgate until the end of the week.

The two boogie boarders could not be found for comment.

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

Read more on:    nsri  |  durban  |  mobile  |  search and rescue

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