Four young men’s unrealistic plans to conquer the Great Fish River in one day instead of seven caused NSRI and Metro EMS teams to search for them.
A Metro helicopter found them having covered just five miles from their departure point on the first day.
The men, Charl Pienaar, 26, Jason Jooste, 23, Bradley Halgreen, 19, and Michael Randall, 19, all from East London embarked on an audacious adventure yesterday to white water raft the Great Fish River in a day – a trip that could at best normally take up to 5 days. Their confidence in their ability to do this 70-km trip so fast caused one of them to ask his parents to meet them at the Kei Mouth ski-boat club at 5 pm yesterday evening,
They were dropped off by a parent at 8 am at the Kei River bridge with no life-jackets, no communications device, no red-distress flares, no safety equipment, no emergency rations, and dressed in only their shorts and T-shirts. They had a hot-dog each, some water, 2 paddles and a 3 meter dinghy rubber-duck.
When they failed to arrive as scheduled the families became concerned and reported the matter to local police at approximately 10 pm. At midnight the SAP Police summoned a Metro EMS search and rescue team, a Police team and an NSRI team to join forces to begin a search and rescue operation.
“NSRI towed our Lotto rescue runner and our rescue rigid inflatable, Metro EMS towed their rescue rigid inflatable – all three craft to be launched on-scene. And a Metro EMS helicopter was prepared for flight to begin a search from first light while rescue teams on foot began a search party,” Geoff McGregor, NSRI East London station commander, says.
“Concerned parents also gathered at the ski-boat club anxious for news of the young men’s fate. The Metro EMS helicopter, while searching from first light this morning, spotted the 4 men. After managing to land in a nearby valley all four were ‘rescued’ and airlifted to their waiting families.
“They claim that they had used the Internet to google the distance and had made what they thought were adequate plans (thinking they would cover 10 kilometers an hour!?) but they were shell-shocked to learn from their rescuers that they had only covered 5 miles on their first day,” McGregor added
To keep warm the men had set up camp and slept under their boat. They were still under the impression they would have made the remaining distance by lunch time on Old Year’s Eve today.
But once in the helicopter and while flying downstream to their waiting parents, Metro EMS paramedics reported that the men were quite wide-eyed when they realised just how much further they had to still go.
The men have apologised to their parents and to their rescuers.
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