Despite an extensive sea and air search by NSRI St Francis Bay volunteer crew, helicopters and fishing boats there has been no sign of a fisherman who fell overboard offshore of St Francis today, 22 July, 2014.
The fisherman, from Port Elizabeth, apparently fell overboard at about 7 am after a rope line entangled around his foot.
Marc May, NSRI St Francis Bay station commander, said the NSRI were activated following reports of a man overboard the Port Elizabeth long line fishing trawler, Helena Marie, 30 nautical miles south-west of St Francis Bay.
According to reports the fisherman was wearing a helmet, oil skins and a life-jacket and the vessel reacted according to protocols for a man overboard. A life ring was thrown to the man and then crew aboard the trawler cut its trawling lines lines so the vessel could get round to where the fisherman went overboard. On reaching the spot where the man had been in the sea no sign of him could be found. A search commenced while the alarm was raised.
“The Transnet National Ports Authority alerted NSRI St Francis Bay and Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert for vessels in the area to respond to assist in a search,” May said. “Chokka fishing boats in the area joined in the search. NSRI St Francis Bay launched its sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II and conducted an extensive sea search. A life ring was found floating in the water during the search.
“NSRI Jeffreys Bay was placed on alert and two SA Air Force 15 Squadron – Charlie Flight helicopters carrying NSRI Port Elizabeth rescue swimmers – were scrambled from Port Elizabeth to join in the search.”
An extensive sea and air search, involving a search grid plotted by MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre), was then conducted by ships passing through the area alerted by Radio Services to keep a watch, NSRI’s sea rescue craft, the chokka fishing boats Portia 1 and Baratz, and the helicopters. However, no sign of the missing fisherman was found.
“The Helena Marie will stay in the area continuing a search through the night and the SA Air Force was tasked to fly a coastal patrol from first light to assist in the search,” May said. “Maritime alerts continue to be broadcast by Radio Services for vessels in the area to keep a watch.
“The SAP have been alerted and will open an investigation into the incident.”
Follow St Francis Chronicle in Twitter: @stfranchronicle