Eight crew still missing after fishing vessel capsizes

17 July 2017 - 15:52 By Bobby Jordan
Image: Sasha Specker

Concerns about fishermen safety have surfaced following a fatal vessel accident near St Francis Bay on Sunday‚ with one crew member confirmed dead and eight still missing.

On Sunday it emerged that the stricken vessel‚ Maredon‚ was brand new‚ and had been fleeing stormy conditions when it capsized. Several crew members including the skipper survived after being washed ashore‚ but hopes are fading for those still missing.

Kouga Fishing Forum chairman Noel Koerat said on Monday that the accident raised questions about why the vessel had not reacted sooner to severe weather warnings. He said the organisation had raised their concerns with the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries.

“I see it as not acting early enough upon the warnings that were there‚” Koerat told TimesLIVE‚ adding that the skipper's first priority should be to his crew. “Clearly the safety of his crew and even of himself was not his first priority. The first priority was how long can I sit out here (at sea)‚” Koerat said.

The vessel was reportedly also travelling too close inshore when it capsized‚ he said.

However the vessel’s owner‚ Balobi Fishing‚ denied that the Maredon was too close to shore. Financial chief Craston Wilson confirmed the vessel was brand new‚ and said a full investigation would hopefully reveal the cause of the accident. “There is nothing we can add at this stage‚” said Wilson.

National Sea Rescue Institute spokesperson Craig Lambinon said a police dive unit had joined in the search for the missing crew.

Earlier NSRI reports detailed a frantic research effort‚ which began in the early hours of Sunday morning when fishermen reported red distress flares offshore of Thyspunt.

“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 in an earlier statement.

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

“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 statement said.