The rescue team – Photo: NSRI
All 25 crew members on board the cray fish boat Baratz which sank off Port Elizabeth this evening have been safely rescued.
The crew that abandoned ship when it started sinking and went onto life rafts were rescued with the aid of helicopters and NSRI swimmers.
The daring rescue in difficult conditions of rough seas of 4 to 5 meter swells and up to 20 knots South Easterly winds occurred South East of Cape Recife. The SA Air Force 15 squadron Charlie flight had scrambled two BK-117 helicopters carrying NSRI Air Sea Rescue swimmers.
An NSRI rescue swimmer was placed on the life-raft to coordinate the safe rescue of casualty crew. Rescue swimmers were deployed from the helicopters into the water and in relays, one at a time, casualty crew were taken out the life-rafts into the sea, swum away from the life-raft by the rescue swimmer and hoisted aboard the helicopters. They were taken to shore by the helicopters that landed behind Something Good at Pollock Beach (Main Port Elizabeth Beachfront) where NSRI rescuers and EC Government Health EMS personnel medically assessed the crew,
Ian Gary, NSRI Port Elizabeth station commander, said at 2 pm today NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteer duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following a request for urgent assistance from the 29 meter steel boat Baratz reporting to be taking water with no motor power and adrift at sea.
The NSRI crew launched the sea rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV and Baratz’s sister ship Helena Marie responded. In addition the Xtreme Projects boat Scar Face, carrying extra water extrication pumps, was placed on stand-by in the lee outside the Port of Port Elizabeth.
On arrival it was found that the Baratz crew had sealed their engine room which had waterlogged. Helena Marie attempted to take Baratz under tow but the casualty boat listed and started to sink, forcing her crew to abandon ship into life-rafts.
The TNPA tug boat Mkuze was activated and responded to the scene. NSRI’s sea rescue craft and Helena Marie then searched for two fishermen initially feared to be missing after two life-jackets were found floating in the sea.
One crewman was rescued from the surf by an NSRI rescue swimmer. He had fallen into the water while trying to get into the life raft and was being swept away by winds and currents at the time, wearing a life-jacket.
The NSRI crew aboard Eikos Rescuer IV spotted him and chased after him. An NSRI swimmer went into the sea, secured him and brought him to the NSRI craft.
Fifteen casualty crew were confirmed to be in the one life raft and nine in another. After all crew were brought to shore a roll call determined that all the casualty crew members had been accounted for. All were safe and in the care of EMS paramedics and NSRI rescuers.
The crew was transported to local hospitals by EMS ambulance as a precautionary measure for further medical assessment. All appear to be medically fit despite their ordeal
The cause of the Baratz taking on water and sinking will be investigated by SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority).
The tug boat Mkuze was earlier attempting to recover the two life-rafts. All services involved in the rescue operation are commended for their swift action today.
Edited by St Francis Chronicle