Wednesday, 03 March 2010 08:26 | Written by  Murray Williams, Chief Reporter, Cape Argus
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Jan Schutte and Johan van Rooyen, Dusi 2009 Jan Schutte and Johan van Rooyen, Dusi 2009

A respected paddler died last night of a suspected heart attack during a weekly ocean race in False Bay, despite a co-ordinated rescue effort by lifesavers and the NSRI to save him.

Jan Schutte (L) and Johan van Rooyen at the Dusi, 2009

Jan Schutte, 49, a highly-experienced river and ocean paddler and mountainbiker from Banhoek outside Stellenbosch, had been participating in a surfski race along the coastline between Gordon’s Bay and the Strand late yesterday afternoon.

Schutte was one of more than 30 paddlers who set out from Main Beach in Gordon’s Bay, with a strong south-easterly wind at their backs, shortly after 6.30pm. The race was expected to take 35 minutes.

Race convenor and lifesaver Herbert Conradie said Schutte had fallen off his surfski barely three minutes into the paddle, between the Main Beach and Harbour Island.

He had immediately turned to assist Schutte, assisting back on to his craft, but noticed that Schutte was in trouble.

A second surfski, a double-seater paddled by Jamii Hamlin and former Springbok rugby player Justin Swart arrived shortly, and the trio lay Schutte across their boats to keep him out of the water. A fourth competitor and experienced lifesaver, Craig Tilsley, joined them seconds later.

Hamlin fired three flares into the air and activated a hand-held smoke flare to alert authorities and the NSRI in Gordon’s Bay’s Old Harbour responded immediately.

Schutte, a strongly-muscled sportsman over six-foot-tall, was hoisted on board the NSRI’s craft and attempts to revive him began while the craft raced back to the harbour, where paramedics waited on standby.

Schutte was pronounced dead a short while later.

In the meanwhile, Hamlin and Swart, after battling to assist Schutte on the water, had made it to shore, where they flagged down a passing motorist.

The paddling community was today in mourning.

Conradie said: “Jan was the complete gentleman, and a fine paddler.

“We did all we could. Every safety measure was in place and every rescue protocol was observed. Many thanks to the NSRI, and to the paddlers, who did everything they could and were complete professionals.

“The paddling community has lost a man very close to our hearts. Jan was one of those rare people about whom not a bad word has ever been said,” Conradie said.

Schutte worked in the wine industry and is survived by a son, Johan, a student, and his wife Christa.

[Story courtesy of the Cape Argus newspaper]

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