Two men swim 4km to shore without life-jackets after going overboard in KZN

2017-11-25 19:47
(NSRI website)

(NSRI website)

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Richards Bay – Two men who were out fishing on Friday were thrown overboard when their ski boat hit a wave and swam roughly 4km to shore, while a massive manhunt was launched to try and find them.

Norman Rautenbach, NSRI Richards Bay duty coxswain, said they had first been notified by the crew of a commercial fishing ski-boat, Rockerfella, who reported that they had found an unmanned ski-boat named Ditto.

He said the boat had only one motor running and was heading out to sea about 8 nautical miles off-shore of Richards Bay.

Rautenbach said the crew of the Rockerfella had managed to pull up alongside the Ditto, board it and cut the motor.

"They raised the alarm alerting NSRI and on investigation, it was confirmed that the boat, Ditto, was known to have launched from Richards Bay earlier that day at 07:00 and was due back at 18:00."

'Boat hit a wave'

Rautenbach said that, with no sign of the two crew, Jaco Snyman, 26, and skipper, Trevor O'Neill, 49, and no idea as to why their boat was underway and unmanned, a full-scale search and rescue operation was launched.

Rautenbach said Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert and Rockerfella had already started a search.

"All vessels that were in the area at the time joined in the search and two NSRI Richards Bay sea rescue craft, Spirit of Richards Bay and Spirit of Round Table II, arrived on the scene to join in a search and rescue operation.

"Having no indication of where or when the skipper and his crewman had left the boat and with no indication of what may have happened a search covering the area from the direction in which the boat was heading was initiated," he said.

Rautenbach said at around 16:30, they had received word from members of the public reporting to have seen two men walking along the beach. It was later confirmed that both the skipper and his crewman had come across staff members of Richards Bay Minerals at 5 Mile beach, and had arranged a lift with them to get back to Richards Bay.

"They reported that they had both fallen overboard after their boat hit a wave. Jaco had fallen backwards and grabbed a hold of Trevor but in the momentum of the stumble and fall had caused both men to go over the side of the boat," said Rautenbach.

He said according to the skipper, the boat had initially gone around in wide circles but out of reach of the two men.

"The boat had continued on its way without them and they were left behind facing the task of trying to swim ashore but without life-jackets."

'Swam for about two hours'

Rautenbach said the men are believed to have fallen overboard at around 13:00, and it was estimated they were about 2.2 nautical miles off-shore, which is roughly 4km, and about 20 km North of Richards Bay - off-shore of the Groenkop mast tower.

"They swam for about two hours and it is estimated that they were able to reach the shore at about 15:00, but being in a remote area they had walked along the beach until they came across the RBM staff who then helped them."

Rautenbach said that during the swim Snyman had apparently developed cramp and exhaustion, and O'Neill had dragged him towards the shore.

He said once ashore, in the vicinity of Hlabane, the two men had rested and then started walking towards RBM knowing that eventually, they would come across someone to assist them.

Rautenbach said the two had been checked on during the night by NSRI, as a precaution to monitor for secondary drowning, and both were reported to be fine and required no further assistance.

"They are both safe home and their boat was brought back to Richards Bay with the commercial ski-boat crewman at the helm," he said.

NSRI commended the commercial ski-boat Rockerfella that came across Ditto and all of the craft and vessels that joined in the search. 

Read more on:    nsri

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