Rugby player dies after being pulled out to sea in current

 One Potchefstroom rugby player died after he an eight others were swept out to sea at East London yesterday, 13 September.

The deceased man was already unconscious when he was rescued and brought ashore through the heroic efforts of two surf-ski enthusiasts.  Nine young rugby players were less than waist deep in water when currents in the outgoing tide in the Nahoon River Mouth swept them out towards the mouth. Others in shallow water managed to avoid being swept away.

According to the NSRI East London, at 5.30 pm yesterday evening,  volunteer sea rescue duty crew were activated following reports of multiple people being swept out to sea at the river mouth. NSRI East London launched its sea rescue craft Spirit of Lotto and a sea rescue vehicle responded, plus the SAP, Aldersons ambulance services and Bufallo City Municipal lifeguards responded.

It appears a group of rugby players, believed to be two teams and of the North West Leopards u19 and u21 teams from Potchefstroom, went to the beach following a rugby match. The  group waded into the water before some of them got into difficulties.

Two local surf-skiers, Doug Copeland and Paul Proctor, saw the commotion and paddled over to assist. According to Copeland they found three groups of men being swept away by currents while struggling against incoming waves.

One group was of five men while two groups had two men each – nine men in total. Copeland reached two men and managed to get them to hang onto his surf-ski while he paddled them towards shore with difficulty against the currents and waves. He managed to get them to shallower water where they were assisted out of the water.

Copeland then went to the aid of another pair of men but one was unconscious. He gave his surf-ski to the second man believed to be the rugby team coach to hang onto for floatation, while he swam the unconscious man to shore.

The patient was handed into the care of bystanders and fellow rugby players and Copeland swam back again to assist others. 

NSRI and Emergency Services had arrived on the scene.  CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) was conducted on the unconscious man who was found to be pulseless and breathless. Despite extensive CPR efforts the man was declared deceased.

In the interim Proctor reached the group of five men struggling in the waves. He jumped out of his surf-ski allowing himself and the five to hang onto it for floatation. Then the coach, hanging onto Copeland’s surf-ski, managed to reach the group with Proctor. All of the men then hung onto both surf-skis for floatation.

When Copeland reached them he and Proctor coralled all the men in between the two surf-ski. They then swam  using the skis as floatation to shore. Near the shore bystanders and fellow rugby players assisted the men out of the water.

The remaining men were treated for shock and exhaustion. NSRI were later informed that after the men had returned to their hotel one man complained of not feeling well and he was transported by ambulance to hospital for observation and medical evaluation.

A sea search was conducted by NSRI when it was suspected that not all of the men were accounted for. The search was called off when NSRI learned that all men were accounted for.

The body of the deceased man was handed over to Forensic Pathology Services. An inquest docket will be opened by the SAP.

The NSRI said in its statement that Copeland and Proctor are commended for their actions.



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