'They stayed together and drifted' - divers found alive
A diving instructor and his student were found floating in the sea‚ alive‚ more than 8km from where they went missing off the coast of Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
The alarm was sounded at 9.30am when diving instructor Jean Snyman‚ 45‚ and his student diver‚ Rezano Damoense‚ 36‚ were reported missing during a deep sea dive.
Ian Gray‚ station commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) at Port Elizabeth said the pair had accompanied a group of recreational divers aboard a commercial boat. The recreational divers surfaced due to poor visibility at the dive site. They were not aware that the pair on the deep dive had surfaced away from the boat.
“Against the morning sun they could not be seen in the water by the crew on the dive boat (although the 2 divers could see the dive boat) and they started to drift further away‚” said Gray.
Two sea rescue boats joined a search involving five other boats and the Aeromed 3 EMS helicopter while police divers prepared to search the original dive site.
The seven boats‚ spaced 100 metres apart‚ were used to conduct a sweeping line search following 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 (8.33 kilometres) north east from the initial area where they had been diving‚” said Gray.
“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.”
The pair told rescuers that‚ with the sun behind them‚ they could see the dive boat but its crew could not see them and they drifted away.
“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 Spirit of Toft came across them during that first leg of the sweeping line search‚” said Gray.
And‚ in a twist to the tale‚ the NSRI discovered that Damoense had applied to join the NSRI in Port Elizabeth as a volunteer. His application was accepted two weeks ago.