Two missing scuba divers found unscathed off-shore of Port Elizabeth after hours at sea

The two divers were found about 8km from the initial area where they had been diving.

Two scuba divers have been rescued hours after they became separated from their dive boat and drifted more than 8km from their original dive site off-shore of Port Elizabeth, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said on Sunday.

NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were activated just after 9.30am on Sunday following reports from the Noordhoek Ski-boat Club of two scuba divers missing during a dive two nautical miles off-shore south of Cape Recife, NSRI Port Elizabeth station commander Ian Gray said.

It had been reported that at around 9.20am the marine training centre (MTC) commercial boat had a group of recreational scuba divers in the water being led by a dive master. At the same dive they had a dive instructor with a student diver conducting a deep-sea dive, he said.

While diving, the dive master, finding visibility conditions to be poor at the dive site, called for the dive to be aborted. The recreational divers and the dive master surfaced and they were recovered on to the dive boat, but the Instructor diver and the student diver had surfaced away from the boat, and against the morning sun they could not be seen in the water by the crew on the dive boat.

The crew, fearing that the two divers may not have surfaced, marked the spot, started a search, and contacted the Noordhoek Ski-boat Club to raise the alarm. The club in turn alerted NSRI Port Elizabeth, Gray said.

Various boats joined the sea search led by the NSRI, while a shoreline search was also conducted and a helicopter flew a search pattern. NSRI took all seven boats participating in the search 100 metres apart and a sweeping line search was initiated taking into account the direction of the currents and wind.

“During the sweeping line search at [12.13pm] we came across the two divers floating approximately 4.5 nautical miles (8.33km) northeast from the initial area where they had been diving, and they were approximately four nautical miles off-shore in line with Koega,” Gray said.

“An NSRI rescue swimmer was deployed into the surf and the two divers were recovered onto the sea rescue craft. They were both in good spirits and they were treated for mild hypothermia, but otherwise they were only a bit tired and obviously happy to be rescued.

“They were brought to shore at the Noordhoek Ski-Boat club where EMS paramedics checked them out and they were released requiring no further medical attention. They confirmed that with the sun behind them they could see the dive boat, but the dive boat could not see them after they had surfaced, and they drifted further away until they could no longer see their dive boat, but they could see that a search had been started,” Gray said.

“While drifting they made themselves comfortable, they stayed together and drifted. At one stage they could hear the helicopter and knowing a search was under way they later heard the motors of the boats searching for them before [NSRI sea rescue craft] Spirit of Toft came across them during that first leg of the sweeping line search,” he said.

Rescued diving instructor Jean Snyman, 45, and his student diver Rezano Damoense, 36, are both local residents. The NSRI commended all services and the private and commercial boats involved and the Noordhoek Ski-boat Club.

“In particular the MTC commercial dive boat that raised the alarm without any hesitation and marking the initial site and then beginning a search, they are commended. It came to our attention only after the rescue operation that Rezano Damoense applied to join NSRI Port Elizabeth as an NSRI volunteer and his application was accepted two weeks ago, and although he has not yet started his training he is an NSRI trainee crewman,” Gray said.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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