IN PICTURES | Robben Island tourists rescued after storm-tossed Table Bay

15 September 2017 - 18:57 By Bobby Jordan
Rescue workers help guide passengers off the Madiba 1‚ which helped transfer passengers from the Robben Island ferry Thandi, after it got into trouble in rough seas off Cape Town on Friday afternoon.
Rescue workers help guide passengers off the Madiba 1‚ which helped transfer passengers from the Robben Island ferry Thandi, after it got into trouble in rough seas off Cape Town on Friday afternoon.
Image: Esa Alexander

Panicked tourists in life-jackets were stranded on a sinking Robben Island ferry for almost half an hour on Friday afternoon before being rescued and taken to shore.

“I thought I was going to die‚” said Brazilian tourist Natalie Jabour. “It was the worst experience of my life.”

Sixty-eight tourists and crew were caught up in the drama after the passenger ferry Thandi nose-dived into a large swell in stormy conditions about halfway between Robben Island and the mainland.

Emergency procedures were activated and passengers huddled on the listing deck until the rescuers arrived. Everyone was safely transferred onto a larger passenger ferry‚ Madiba 1‚ which was on her way back to the mainland.

National Sea Rescue Institute rescue divers used life rafts to transfer passengers‚ all wearing lifejackets‚ from Thandi to Madiba 1‚ which went to the rescue.
National Sea Rescue Institute rescue divers used life rafts to transfer passengers‚ all wearing lifejackets‚ from Thandi to Madiba 1‚ which went to the rescue.
Image: Esa Alexander

He said he had not expected such a major adventure so soon into his South African visit. “I'm going to my hotel drink a good glass of wine.”

The NSRI said the South African Maritime Safety Authority would investigate the incident. “Efforts are being made to recover the ferry‚” the NSRI said.

A female passenger was transported to hospital by ambulance in a stable condition suffering from back pain.
A female passenger was transported to hospital by ambulance in a stable condition suffering from back pain.
Image: Esa Alexander

The stricken ferry is owned by Nonkululeko Charters. In an ironic twist‚ the rescue ferry Madiba 1 struggled to get the necessary permission to enter the service. It was unable to withstand the rough conditions due to its size.

“The rescuers did a good job – it was a great effort‚” said Madiba 1 skipper Trevor Lloyd.

“One passenger from the ferry Thandi‚ a female‚ was transported to hospital by ambulance in a stable condition suffering from back pain‚” the NSRI said in a statement. Another passenger from Madiba 1 was transported to hospital suffering from anxiety.

Visibly shaken passengers disembarking at the ferry service main jetty at the V&A Waterfront‚ where they were given blankets and debriefed by Robben Island Museum officials. Some of them spoke to journalists afterwards‚ describing their ordeal.

Rescue workers transport an injured passenger.
Rescue workers transport an injured passenger.
Image: Esa Alexander

“The wind was very hard‚” said Jabour’s husband‚ George. “She [my wife] asked the pilot of the boat is it safe. He said yes‚ yes. But in the middle the water came into the boat. “Another five or 10 minutes and we would have had to jump into the water. It was very tough.”

Relieved passengers embrace at the Gateway — the terminal for tourist trips to Robben Island.
Relieved passengers embrace at the Gateway — the terminal for tourist trips to Robben Island.
Image: Esa Alexander
X