Diver rescued after 7 hours at sea

2013-02-27 11:40

Durban - A diver who went missing on Tuesday morning was found after drifting for more than seven hours in the rough seas off the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.

Jean-Pierre Els, 30, of Uvongo, went missing at around 08:00 at Shelly Beach.

The dive master for a diving company was 12km offshore of Shelly Beach at Protea Banks when he got swept away while conducting a group charter dive.

National Sea Rescue Institute Shelly Beach station commander Mark Harlen said Els was located by the Transnet National Ports Authority rescue helicopter at around 15:20 off the shore of Port Edward, which was about 45km from where he originally went missing.

Harlen said Els got separated from the dive charter group while diving. When he surfaced from the dive he had no sight of the dive charter boat.

“He drifted for over seven hours in the two- to three-metre rough sea swell and a 30 knot wind until he was found. An NSRI rescue swimmer was deployed into the water from the rescue helicopter to secure the diver, who was then airlifted to our Shelly Beach rescue base,” he said.

Harlen explained that although Els was exhausted, dehydrated and had experienced some sunburn, he did not need to be hospitalised.


  • janice.mcmaster.92 - 2013-02-27 11:43

    One lucky diver!!!!!

      John Borges - 2013-02-27 12:47

      Luckily he was diving on the sea. Imagine getting lost whilst doing other types of diving

      thin.king.965 - 2013-02-27 13:21

      Thumbs up to the NSRI and TNPA

      Warren van Wyk - 2013-02-27 13:22

      Well done to the Transnet National Ports Authority rescue staff.

      darren.raath.5 - 2013-02-27 14:02

      very very very very very very lucky to found. did i mention he was very lucky to be found?

      toni.k.mcquillen - 2013-02-27 15:42

      There is not enough in the report for us to determine how the incident occured, and let us not forget that people are human they do make mistakes too - no matter what their experience - this is why you have organisations like DAN and NSRI that are not there to judge you instead help you. I am glad he is ok, and walked away without any serious injuries.

  • Tshililo Tshikota - 2013-02-27 11:48

    Must make a movie about this guy.

      trevor.myburgh.12 - 2013-02-27 12:16

      Ja him beating up the captain of the boat, must have been a nightmare....

      Nunu - 2013-02-27 14:24

      Its the divers fault, not the skipper. As a skipper you watch the bouy, that is your only way of knowing where the divers are - especially in rough seas. A diver cannot ever risk breaking away from the group.

  • Stuart Corbishley - 2013-02-27 11:53

    Can't anyone dive in peace?!

  • Johann Enslin - 2013-02-27 11:57

    Give him a beer, some rest and the skipper alone in a small room.

      Nunu - 2013-02-27 14:25

      Its not the skippers fault - in fact the diver owes the skipper an apology!

      Nico Jansen van Vuuren - 2013-02-27 15:19

      Nunu, how do you know it's not the skipper's fault? You weren't there. Various circumstances could have dictated fault on behalf of the diver and skipper alike.

      Ronald - 2013-02-27 17:39

      The lady that is the owner is a school friend of mine. As I understand it the diver drifted away from the diving buoy. The boat stayed on station to assist in the search.

  • Leeyakath Abbubaker - 2013-02-27 12:01

    lucky he werent in the cold cape atlantic waters else he'd be chum...

      leroy.reynolds.353 - 2013-02-27 12:30

      what are you trying to say, that sharks are only found in the cold cape waters?

      Nunu - 2013-02-27 14:26

      The Cape sharks are a lot scarier ...

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2013-02-27 16:12

      @Nunu: Ever been in raggie cave with about +-30 sharks? How about in the middle of a black tip feeding frenzy. I’ve been in the water where a tiger came, picked up a huge drum filled with food, broke the cable as if it didn’t exist and swam of with it as if it was a toothpick. 220 gone in 25 minutes and I almost almost craped my wetsuit. Don’t ask me how big the shark was cause I’ll tell you it was a whale. Biggest damn shark I’ve ever seen. So what does the cape sharks do? ;) Oh and these are all done with no cages in WARM open water.

  • Magau Thomas - 2013-02-27 12:06

    Well done God he ia great we thank God for life

  • Miandra van Zyl - 2013-02-27 12:20

    wow so happy he is Ok and that they found him!Thank you NSRI

  • koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2013-02-27 12:25

    Strange, just yesterday I told a diver with 24 dives under his belt NOT to go to Protea banks. That dive can get real harsh real fast. Those currents are not to be toyed with. Luckily everything turned out well. Thumbs up to the rescue teams. Job well done!

      Bunny_Chow - 2013-02-27 12:54

      I know Protea Banks - it's not a leisurely goof in the sea. You need to know your stuff there.

  • tilovonbrandis - 2013-02-27 12:29

    The dive master should loose his licence changed with negligence. Where was his dive buddy? Dive masters often get so involved in their "free" dive that they forget about their primary responsibility, to make sure that even the idiots in the group are accounted for under water. Diving in the waters of the SA coast is extreme diving, due to the strong currents.

      Bunny_Chow - 2013-02-27 12:53

      You sound like someone who knows a thing or 2 about diving. More than can be said for most of the commentators on this topic.

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2013-02-27 15:58

      @Tilovonbrandis: A little bit harsh there aren't we. I've been in groups where experienced DM’s (that I would trust with my life – and I don’t say that lightly) have lost divers in a blink of an eye in relative calm waters. It’s hard to keep an eye one everyone I know especially young Gauteng divers with dive computers that cost as much as my house. Too little information to really make a sound judgement. Who knows what went wrong but luckily everyone is ok.

  • Chris - 2013-02-27 12:35

    lucky , assume sloppy safety standards

  • flynn.govender - 2013-02-27 12:46

    He is one lucky chap

  • Bunny_Chow - 2013-02-27 12:51

    Not sure why the knives are out for the boat skipper. It seems like the DM screwed up here by getting separated from the group he was supposed to be leading. Where was his bouy line? Whilst I do not know this guy - I suspect a lack of experience here. A Dive Master's ticket does not qualify a person to lead dives - for that you need the Dive Master's ticker AND the knowledge that comes only with the experience of many hundreds of dives. I know plenty 'zero-to-hero' so called Dive Master's who do the DM course after the minimum of 30 logged dives and then think they are bullet proof. Davy Jone's locker even contains a few. The boat skipped did the right thing - stayed with the main group of divers, got them safely back onto the boat and raised the alarm for the missing DM. He did the right thing.

      toni.k.mcquillen - 2013-02-27 13:54

      I would hope he is experienced leading dives at Protea Banks, it certainly isn't for inexperienced divers, you have to be on the ball. There is not enough in the report for us to determine how the incident occured, and let us not forget that people are human they do make mistakes too - no matter what their experience - this is why you have organisations like DAN and NSRI that are not there to judge you instead help you. I am glad he is ok, and walked away without any serious injuries.

  • malcolm.stevens.129 - 2013-02-27 12:59

    Protea Banks is where you go to do good shark diving in SA. It's well known for Zambezi sharks and the occasional White shark. Els must have pooped himself knowing this!

  • ubervanman - 2013-02-27 13:48

    there is a solution...each diver must have an AIS (Automatic identification sysem) Beacon on them. each boat needs an AIS receiver. if the diver goes missing or the diver cannot see the boat, the diver activates the unit. it will come up on the boats GPS plotter as an emergency signal with co ordinates and the skipper can then find the diver straight away. the AIS beacon signal will also be picked up on the displays of any commercial ship that is required by maritime law to have an AIS transponder on board. this way the search time will also be minimized and lives can be saved. i know this seems opportunistic but this product will really help with this type of situation.

  • Nico Jansen van Vuuren - 2013-02-27 15:24

    Nunu, you seem to be very prejudiced towards this diver. I'll stress again, you weren't there, lots of circumstances can cause a diver to loose the group, especially in rough seas(low viz?). Diving rules state you surface after loosing your buddy and/or group. Whether or not the skipper then locates the diver is irrelevant. Not all divers carry their own buoys, needed in these situations, per regulation it is not compulsory, but urged.

  • Bridget Bentley - 2013-02-27 15:44

    "Give that man a Bells!"

      Kieran Bentley - 2013-02-27 16:22

      or a chibuku

  • Abigail Lindll Abercrombie - 2013-02-27 16:18

    Jiss JP ons is bly jy is veilig! Jy sal vir ons n hartaanval gee. Xx Abi

  • Abigail Lindll Abercrombie - 2013-02-27 16:18

    Jiss JP ons is bly jy is veilig! Jy sal vir ons n hartaanval gee. Xx Abi

  • Warren Massey - 2013-02-27 16:58

    As a qualified Dive Master this incident should never have happened, if the correct dive procedures had been followed. Ie lost buddy procedure, group using a dive buoy, having the dive boat following the Dm's marker buoy. Very Lucky to be alive.

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2013-02-27 20:51

      Not always. An example. About two years back we where diving from ponta do ouro. There was a sighting of a blue ribbon eel at a reef calls Kev’s ledge. Conditions allowed us to drop on a spot called Riana’s arch. The plan was to do a negative descent, group, swim through the arch and follow the reef to the bottom side of Kev’s ledge. Negative descent should say it all and you can’t really pull a dive buoy through an arch or small cave. As me and my dive buddy entered the group got swept past us. Luckily I know that reef well and I knew where they were going so we continued to the lower part of Kev’s, got to see that small little eel (will probably never see one like that again), swam up Kev’s wall and joined up again. It was no one’s fault and if I didn’t know that reef I would have looked and not see them then surfaced. Sometimes things just happen. Do agree with you that he was very lucky indeed. Once on that same reef the current literally did a 180 on us. I couldn't believe it and wouldn't if I wasn't there myself. That was pretty chaotic as well. That’s why we do it.

  • rob.tubbs.39 - 2013-02-27 17:15

    Go and but a 'lotto' ticket Bro, and have a 'Bells' at the same time. Congratulations. Something to tell your grand-children......

  • Abigail Lindll Abercrombie - 2013-02-27 18:25

    Jiss mens sal sweer al hierdie ouens wi comment op news24 is briljant in elke spek.

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2013-02-27 20:53

      Dankie ;)

      Nico Jansen van Vuuren - 2013-02-28 13:56

      Dis 'n tawwe skare...

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