PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Sea rescue volunteers including a lifeguard took on rough sea conditions and rip currents to save five surf-skiers that got into difficulty at Nature's Valley Beach.
National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Plettenberg Bay station commander Marc Rodgers said just after 13:20 on Sunday 15 December volunteers were requested to assist the surf-skiers who had undertaken a dash from Plettenberg Bay to Nature's Valley.
"The group of surf-skiers had arrived off-shore of Nature's Valley to find rough sea conditions, strong rip currents and increasing wind speeds estimated at 30 knots gusting to 35 knots making it difficult to get through the surf line to the beach," Rodgers said.
He said they then launched two sea rescue craft and NSRI rescue swimmers, Nature's Valley lifeguards and provincial emergency services responded, and an EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter was activated.
Nature's Valley lifeguard Chris Pannell also launched into the surf to assist.
When the rescue craft arrived on the scene, Rodgers said, the lifeguard in the surf line was picked up and a surf-skier located in the water without his surf-ski about 500m offshore was rescued. "We believe his surf-ski washed ashore," the station commander said.
The rescue craft then headed to beyond the backline where three surf-skiers were still on their craft and one surf-skier was found in the water. "We believe his surf-ski also washed ashore."
Rodgers said they took the man in the water onto their craft and initiated rewarming efforts as he was severely hypothermic. "We took one surf-skier and his craft onto our sea rescue craft and brought him and his craft to shore and we also dropped off the first man that we rescued."
With the lifeguard still on board assisting with the rescue, the NSRI returned to the backline and picked up the remaining two surf-skiers, their craft and the lifeguard to shore.
Rodgers said paramedics, assisted by NSRI and by the lifeguards, medically checked on the wellbeing of the surf-skiers. "The decision was taken to transport the hypothermic patient to our base. We continued with rewarming efforts, two of our rescuer crew buddy-hugging the man to provide body heat to assist with the rewarming process, and by the time we reached our base a significant improvement in the man's condition was noted."
He added that they continued with rewarming efforts at the base until the man had fully recovered and his friends came to take him home.
The NSRI commended Pannell who launched into very rough seas to go to the aid of those in peril. "The NSRI had conducted routine training with the lifeguards, including Chris, a week prior to this incident. The unique circumstances around the Plettenberg Bay coastline where rip currents can sometimes prevent a casualty from getting back to shore.
Rodgers said lifeguards are trained to alert the NSRI before launching into the surf with their personal protective equipment and floatation rescue devices, and on reaching the person in trouble, take the casualty to the backline and keep them afloat until sea rescue craft arrive to assist.
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