Port Elizabeth Surf Ski Rescue

Sunday, 25 June 2006 20:58 | Written by  NSRI Media Release
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Spirit of Toft
Port Elizabeth, 24 June, 2006. Surf-skier rescued after going missing at sea has been taken directly to hospital for treatment for hypothermia aboard an SA Air Force helicopter.  


Ian Gray, NSRI Port Elizabeth Station Commander said: "At 15h20 NSRI Port Elizabeth were activated to a report of 2 surf-skier's suspected to be missing at sea during the surf-ski event the "Sportsworld Downwind Winter Series Race 3", between Sardinia Bay and Noordhoek near Port Elizabeth.


"NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteers launched our 10 metre deep-sea rescue craft 'Spirit of Toft' and our 7 metre rigid inflatable 'Rescue 6 Alpha'. Our NSRI 4x4 vehicle and an NSRI crew member in his private vehicle were dispatched to scour the shoreline along the route of the surf-ski event and Netcare 911 ambulance service and members of the public also assisted to scour the shoreline along the event route.


"An SA Air Force helicopter (BK-117) was activated to assist in the search. "A search grid was plotted covering a coastal shoreline area of 6 nautical miles and up to 2 nautical miles out to sea in sea conditions of 2 to 3 metre swells and 20 to 25 knot South Westerly winds.


"While the NSRI were conducting a search one of the missing surf-skier's, Mr. Stanford Slabbert, was reported to be safely aboard the fishing vessel 'Cannon' but he required urgent medical assistance for hypothermia. The fishing vessel Cannon alerted the NSRI that they had taken him on-board and our NSRI rescue craft rendezvoused with the fishing vessel out at sea.


"It appears that 2 fellow surf-skiers (one of whom was also suspected to be a missing surf-skier) had come to Mr. Slabberts assistance after Mr. Slabbert apparently got seperated from his surf-ski about 1.5 nautical miles from the finish of the race and is suspected to have been drifting in the sea for quite some time (believed to have been drifting in the sea for over an hour).


"One surf-skier, Marcus Burri, loaded Mr. Slabbert onto the back of his surf-ski while another surf-skier, Brett Caudwell, raced over to a near-by fishing vessel 'Cannon' to alert them to come over and assist.


"The fishing vessel Cannon lifted her anchor and raced over to where Marcus Burri and stanford Slabbert were and took Stanford Slabbert on-board their fishing vessel and alerted the NSRI that they had the casualty on-board and that they urgently needed medics to attend to him.


"Our NSRI rescue craft that were already engaged in the search met up with the fishing vessel Cannon where Mr. Slabbert was transferred across to the NSRI rescue craft and our NSRI medics began treatment on Mr. Slabbert for severe hypothermia. He was then hoisted off our NSRI rescue craft Spirit of Toft into the SA Air Force helicopter and brought to our NSRI rescue station where Netcare 911 paramedics assessed his condition and it was decided to fly him aboard the SA Air Force helicopter directly to a local hospital for further treatment for severe hypothermia.


"The 2 surf-skiers who rescued Mr. Slabbert paddled safely into the Summerstrand Lifesaving Club and they required no assistance. All surf-skiers involved in the surf-ski event are accounted for.


"Mr Slabbert's surf-ski has not been found.


"The NSRI commend all those involved in the operation for a sterling effort. We particularly commend Marcus Burri and Brett Caudwell who together saved Mr. Stanford Slabbert's life.


"This morning NSRI Port Elizabeth and the SA Air Force conducted a full scale training exercise. Exactly what we were training for (hoisting rescuers and casualties from our rescue craft into Air Force Helicopters) presented itself in this rescue operation later on in the same day."


[Editor: Craig Lambinon, the NSRI Spokesman who sent us this story added that the NSRI encourages event organisers to inform the NSRI when such events are taking place and to have a disaster management/safety plan in place.


It would be interesting to know a little more about the incident, for example was the incident victim using a leash?  I heard of another incident recently in Durban where a paddler lost his paddle - two other paddlers turned to help and one of them lost his paddle too.  Three skis, one paddle.  Somehow they managed to get into the beach.  Leashes seem like a heck of a good idea to me in any kind of downwind (or any windy) situation.]

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