One dead‚ eight missing after fishing vessel capsizes off Eastern Cape coast

16 July 2017 - 15:48
By TimesLIVE
St Francis Bay. File photo.
Image: Google Maps St Francis Bay. File photo.

One fisherman has been confirmed dead and eight others are reported missing after a chokka fishing vessel capsized off the coast of St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape in the early hours of Sunday morning.

According to the National Sea Rescue Institute‚ there were seven survivors‚ six of whom have been hospitalised and are in reported to be in a stable condition.

It said its NSRI St Francis Bay duty crew had been activated by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) at 330am on Sunday following reports of red distress flares reported by chokka fishing vessels at sea off-shore of Thyspoint.

The chokka fishing vessel Silver Eagle had witnessed the red distress flares at around 3am and raised the alarm calling Telkom Maritime Radio Services and the MRCC.

An Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon had then also been intercepted by the MRCC and additional flare sightings were reported.

“Two chokka fishing vessels‚ Silver Eagle and Megalodon‚ diverted to investigate and the chokka fishing vessel Maredon was then confirmed to have capsized‚” the NSRI said.

“It appears that Silver Eagle came upon a life raft and reported that the life raft had drifted too close into towards the rocks and could not be reached. Megalodon reported to have recovered one survivor from the water‚” it added.

Shore patrols and a sea and air search were launched for more survivors of the capsized Maredon‚ which is confirmed to have had 16 crew on board. Rescuers had to battle against rough sea conditions with 6 metre swells and a gusting to 50 knots westerly wind and rain.

“One survivor was transferred from the chokka fishing vessel Megalodon onto the NSRI sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II and he was brought to shore and he has been transported to hospital by Private Care ambulance services in a stable condition.

“During a search members of the public‚ including the owner of other chokka fishing boats‚ and NSRI rescuers‚ recovered 1 deceased fisherman on the shore in the vicinity of Sunset Rocks and 5 survivors were found on the beach at Sunset Rocks.

“The deceased man has been taken into the care of the Forensic Pathology Services‚” the NSRI said.

It added that the Maredon was found capsized and hard aground at Sunset Rocks but surf conditions would not allow rescuers to get close to the stricken vessel during the high tide.

“As high tide approached waves caused the stricken vessel to roll over a few times and one survivor was witnessed climbing out of the vessel and NSRI rescue swimmers waded into the water and rescued the survivor who has been airlifted to hospital by the SAAF 15 Squadron Charlie Flight helicopter in a stable condition.

“At this stage there is 1 fishermen recovered and confirmed to be deceased‚ 7 survivors recovered of which 6 have been hospitalised and reported to be in stable conditions and 8 crew who are missing.

“Efforts are underway to breach the hull of the boat as the tide recedes and a search and rescue operation continues.

“This is an ongoing operation and updates will follow.

“Police have opened an inquest docket and SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) are launching an investigation.”