After being missing for about two hours at sea local St Francis recreational diver was found yesterday following an extensive search by two aircraft and NSRI volunteer sea crew duty crew on sea craft and on shore, plus with support from other parties .
Sara Smith, NSRI station commander said yesterday at 1.23 pm. NSRI St Francis Bay volunteer duty crew were activated following reports of a diver missing off-shore of Seal Point Lighthouse, Cape St Francis.
Two local recreational divers from a local dive club, while diving at a depth of 35 to 40 meters, were on an ascent from their dive when their anchor line reportedly came loose from their boat. The pair were forced to speed up their ascent.
On surfacing one diver reached the RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) while the other diver after getting his dive fins onboard the boat, became separated from the boat and his dive partner lost sight of him.
The alarm was raised while the dive partner initiated a search.
The missing man was reported to be adrift at sea with no aids – life-jacket, flippers, safety gear, other than he was in his wet-suit with his dive tank and BC.
NSRI St Francis Bay launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II while shore crew were dispatched to initiate a shoreline search.
Sea conditions were 2-3 metre Westerly swells with South Easterly 10 to 20 knots winds.
NSRI EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) alerted the Transnet National Ports Authority and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre). Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert for the area requesting vessels in the area to keep a sharp lookout.
NSRI Jeffreys Bay were activated and the NSRI rescue craft Rescue 37 was launched. NSRI Oyster Bay duty crew were activated and they prepared to launch the NSRI rescue craft Oyster Bay 1.
The Transnet National Ports Authority, NSEI EOC, NSRI duty controllers from St Francis Bay, Jeffreys Bay and from Gqeberha assisted MRCC to plot a search grid.
NSRI Kommetjie (Cape Town) assisted with the Search Well system to assist in the drift direction and speed of drift.
Gqeberha Air Traffic Control (ATC), local flight schools and airfields were alerted.
Two fixed wing aircraft joined in the search, one crewed by NSRI Gqeberha volunteer father and son crew, Ross and Rob Pyle, on aircraft belonging to Madiba Bay School of Flight that volunteered their aircraft and who joined the search from Gqeberha. Plus one aircraft crewed by local Chris Sparg volunteered to to joined the search from the St Francis Airfield on his private aircraft.
The two aircraft were directed to search areas.
Port St Francis Ski-boat and Yacht Club assisted by dispatching private craft to join in the search.
Balobi Chokka Fishing Company dispatched a vessel to assist in the search.
Private Care ambulance services and the Police Dive Unit were placed on alert.
At 3.12 pm, during an extensive air, sea and shoreline search, the missing diver was located 1 nautical miles off-shore West of Seal Point Lighthouse by the NSRI Jeffreys Bay rescue craft Rescue 37.
He was found to be in good spirits despite being in the water for almost two hours. He had suffered multiple blue bottle stings to his hands but was otherwise uninjured and required no medical attention.
He was brought to shore aboard the NSRI rescue craft safely and was reunited with his dive buddy.
The swift response by all involved is commended. The dive partner is commended for raising the alarm early. The massive local response by private aircraft, private boats, local clubs and the fishing industry and the immense swift response by NSRI St Francis Bay, their flanking stations NSRI Jeffreys Bay and NSRI Oyster Bay and the support from NSRI Gqeberha, TNPA, NSRI EOC, MRCC is commended.
-edited by Bev Mortimer