NSRI's floating stretcher earns finalist spot for international award

Stretcher manufacturer Marcus van Deventer, NSRI Plettenberg station commander Marc Rodgers and coxswain Robbie Gibson (Supplied)
Stretcher manufacturer Marcus van Deventer, NSRI Plettenberg station commander Marc Rodgers and coxswain Robbie Gibson (Supplied)

A floating stretcher that the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) designed to extricate hikers has earned it a finalist spot for an international maritime award.

The International Maritime Rescue Foundation (IMRF) recognised the stretcher for its innovation and technology, as it allows an immobilised patient to be carried over coastal rocks and through the surf.

In a motivation to the IMRF, the NSRI explained that its station in Plettenberg Bay had had a unique problem in extricating patients on a rocky stretch of shoreline, where the bulk of their rescues take place.

"Regularly, hikers in the Robberg nature reserve are injured on the hiking trail and need to be carried back to the parking area or extricated by sea," it said.

"The latter is often the preferred method as large parts of the reserve include narrow footpaths that navigate steep rocky sections."

The volunteers at the station started designing the floating stretcher last year and used it for the first time in an operation in April this year.

It told the IMRF that the 20kg stretcher had unique features that could be used by other rescue services around the world.

These include:

- A stable platform on which a casualty can be carried over rough terrain on narrow paths with ease,

- It will not capsize easily in the surf,

- It carries a backboard with a spider harness and head blocks that are easily removable,

- It is lightweight and strong, so if damaged in an operation it will not fail,

- The shoulder strap design helps the stretcher bearers take the weight of a patient,

- It has solid pontoon so that it cannot be punctured and then fail,

- It has a rigid platform base that will allow CPR to be performed on it,

- Towing features,

- Paddles like a SUP carrying two crew,

- Has a storage compartment for medical equipment,

- Has a fibreglass hull with nylon skids to protect the underside when sliding over rocks.

NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said Plettenberg Bay station commander Marc Rodgers and coxswain Robbie Gibson would be jetting off to London next month for the awards luncheon, where the winners will be announced.

In 2018, the NSRI won the same category for its pink rescue buoys, which are hung on signs in high-risk areas with instructions on how to use them in an emergency. 

In 2017, the NSRI were runners-up in the team category for its water safety education programme.

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