From delivering babies to plucking surfers from the ocean, the NSRI saw it all this weekend

17 May 2021 - 08:21 By paul ash
A National Sea Rescue Institute rescue boat heads out to sea.
A National Sea Rescue Institute rescue boat heads out to sea.
Image: Flickr/NSRI

From delivering a baby to plucking an ill crewman off a fishing vessel and helping an injured surf skier off Simonstown — along with a few wild goose chases — the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has had a busy few days.

The week kicked off with a new baby. At 6pm last Wednesday, an off-duty crewman at the NSRI’s Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal station saw people gathered outside an office in which a woman was screaming.

When he went to investigate, he saw that the 30-something woman was in labour. Co-opting women nearby, the crewman called for help and in the meantime helped move the woman to a more private area, said NSRI Ballito station commander Quentin Power.

The baby, however, could not wait for the ambulance and the crewman, assisted by a female bystander, helped a healthy baby boy into the world 10 minutes before paramedics arrived. 

He then helped paramedics to clamp and cut the umbilical cord and load the woman and her baby into the ambulance to be transported to hospital for observation.

At Stilbaai on the southern Cape coast, the rescue service had a dramatic day on Thursday when a fishing trawler 30 nautical miles offshore called for help to evacuate seriously ill crew member.

The call went to the NSRI’s emergency operations centre, which ordered the Stillbaai lifeboat, Colorpress Rescuer, to put to sea.

While en route, the rescuers received news that the patient’s condition was deteriorating.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), which had launched the original request, ask the SA Air Force to step in with an Oryx helicopter from 22 Squadron in Cape Town, while calling for an ambulance to travel to the coastal town to fetch the patient when he came ashore.

The chopper was soon en route from Ysterplaat Air Force Base to the fishing vessel, said Jean du Plessis, NSRI Stilbaai station commander.

Aboard were NSRI rescue swimmers and paramedics.

The NSRI boat reached the fishing vessel first and the ill crew member was transferred to the rescue vessel. 

The chopper rendezvoused the vessel, but it was determined the patient was stable enough to be transferred to Stillbaai by boat.

On Friday, it was Gqeberha’s turn to head out to sea to rescue an injured crew member from a cargo ship.

At 2.30pm, the NSRI’s JLT Resin Algoa Bay headed out, said Stephen van den Berg, NSRI Gqeberha duty coxswain.

The 29-year-old Filipino crew member was soon on his way to hospital.

On Saturday morning, NSRI Simonstown launched its rescue boat Spirit of Surfski II after the emergency operations centre received an emergency activation ping from a local surf skier. The boat set out for a part of the bay off Boulders beach where they found two surf skiers, one of whom had injured himself while paddling and was unable to continue.

The other paddler had deployed his NSRI RSA Safetrx emergency app on behalf of his injured buddy, said station commander Darren Zimmerman.

The paddler and his surf ski were hauled aboard the sea rescue craft and brought to shore.

There were also a few wild goose chases.

On Friday, crewmen at the NSRI station at Port Edward were activated after witnesses reported seeing red distress flares off-shore of the North Sand Bluff lighthouse.

The maritime rescue coordination centre was informed but there were no reports of any vessels in distress.

Meanwhile, the station crew were dispatched to check the launching sites for any vehicles that may indicate there were boaters who might still be at sea.

Local ski boat clubs confirmedt none of their members were at sea.

While a search operation was being launched, the NSRI crew came across people on the beach who had launched three sky lanterns at short intervals. Because they burn red, people on the bluff mistakenly identified them as distress flares.

On Friday morning, the Plettenberg Bay station received a call from the neighbour of a 58-year-old man who had gone for a swim at Sanctuary Beach and might not have returned, said duty coxswain Gerard Jordaan.

She had seen him going into the sea after leaving his towel on the lifeguard tower.

When she returned from her walk, the towel was still hanging there but there was no sign of her neighbour. Alarmed, she called the station.

Sea rescue craft were launched and proceeded to Sanctuary Beach while rescue swimmers drove to the beach. 

The search failed to find any trace of the man.

It turned out he had gone home after his swim and forgot his towel on the beach.

He had no idea of the drama he had caused, said Jordaan.