19 year-old US student missing in the sea near Coffee Bay

A 19 year-old American student went missing in the sea yesterday near Coffee Bay, Transkei, 30 August 2015.

The student disappeared in the surf line when he and five other students from UCT, Cape Town, went for a swim at 11 pm.

Despite extensive searches this morning no sign of the missing teenager was found. Rescue helicopters, plus local private aviators, were  on high alert all morning, ready to be dispatched but adverse weather conditions prevented the aircraft from flight.

The NSRI East London says it was alerted this morning at 3.55 am by reports of the student missing at a holiday lodge, south-west of Coffee Bay. The NSRI also says it appears the American disappeared after getting into difficulty at low tide in the current Spring tide.

The other students tried to find him and lodge staff joined in the search. After all efforts to find him proved unsuccessful., the local SAP were called and the alarm was raised.

An SAAF helicopter rescue team with the NSRI ASR (Air Sea Rescue) were ready but unfavourable weather conditions hampered efforts. A police K-9 Search and Rescue team, a Police Dive Unit and EC Government Health EMS Disaster Risk Management responded as well. However the remote location and barely accessible terrain led to the response teams arriving on the scene only at around 10 am.

During the morning all efforts to get a helicopter rescue team to the site were made and SAAF 15 Squadron (Durban), SAAF 15 squadron Charlie Flight (Port Elizabeth), the EMS rescue helicopter (East London), a Police helicopter (East London), and an EMS helicopter (Umtata) were on high alert throughout the morning. All rescue teams were ready to be dispatched when weather conditions improved.

But the first clearing of the weather only came after noon. After an extensive search by police and Disaster Management personnel, plus lodge staff and the other students and local community members a helicopter rescue effort was stood down.

The family of the missing teenager in the US are being kept informed and the United States Consulate has dispatched a team to the site to assist. Police will continue an ongoing search operation and are investigating.

Attempts will be made to dispatch a Police helicopter to join Police K-9 Search and Rescue and Police Dive Unit in the ongoing search tomorrow, depending on the weather. Local aviators from the surrounding areas and from the Border Aviation Club have volunteered to dispatch private aircraft to join in the search subject once weather conditions improve.

Local community members and staff of the lodge will also continue a vigil of the area.

(edited by St Francis Chronicle)

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