Various emergency services acted swiftly to rescue a large number of students who had got into difficulty while swimming in the sea at Cape Recife, on the western edge of Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said.
NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew and the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) water emergency rescue network were activated just after midday following reports of several people in difficulty in the surf at Cape Recife, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty controller Ryan Meyer said.
An NSRI rescue vehicle, NSRI rescue swimmers, the coastal water rescue unit, Eastern Cape government health EMS, the EMS Aeromed 3 helicopter, NMB beach office managers and lifeguards, the NMB fire and rescue services, and the South African Police Service (SAPS) all responded to the scene.
“A group of at least 80 young adults, mostly from Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and others from surrounding areas, on what we believe is a monthly hike from Humewood to Cape Recife, on reaching Cape Recife, some had gone into the water to cool off at a beach that is not patrolled by lifeguards,” Meyer said.
On arrival on the scene it was found that at least five men were still in difficulty in the water. It appeared that three men got into difficulty in the water about 300 metres out after they had waded over the reef to swim and were caught in rip currents.
Four men from the same group had gone into the water to try to help. One man, of the original three who were in trouble, had reached safety and had raised the alarm. A woman had also waded out to try to help.
“NSRI rescue swimmers found some of those still in the water were holding onto rocks and they were attempting to assist each other. NSRI rescue swimmers Jean Roussouw and Steven van den Berg entered the water and were able to assist the casualties from the water,” he said.
NSRI medics initiated medical treatment and paramedics and rescue personnel, on arrival, then took over the medical treatment for non-fatal drowning symptoms and scrapes and bruises.
One man was airlifted to hospital by the EMS Aeromed 3 helicopter and two men and a woman were transported to hospital by EMS ambulance. They were all in a stable condition and expected to fully recover, Meyer said.
Other people who had also been in the water were treated for scrapes and bruises and required no further assistance. All casualties were accounted for. It had been reported that this was a regular monthly gathering and that most in the group had been to Cape Recife in the past and were familiar with the terrain.
They were all aged in their early 20s. It was believed that all those who had been in difficulty in the surf were from NMU and locals from Port Elizabeth. The quick response of the water emergency network was commended by the NSRI.
“NSRI are urging caution around the coast with the full moon spring tide that will affect the coastline with stronger than normal rip currents into the first half on the new week,” Meyer said.
– African News Agency (ANA)