Rescuers tell of luck in saving Slabbert

Wednesday, 28 June 2006 12:56 | Written by  Duncan Reyneke, The Herald
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It‘s been just over two days since DA ward councillor Stanford Slabbert‘s near fatal brush with hypothermia, and the men involved with saving him feel it was a stroke of good luck they were able to assist.


An avid paddling enthusiast, Slabbert was surfskiing in the third leg of the Sportsworld Downwind Winter Series Race on Saturday, when he was knocked from his ski by a large wave.

Unsuccessful efforts to recover his ski left him in need of assistance which came initially in the form of fellow racer and long-time acquaintance, Marcus Burri.


He said he had been taking Slabbert‘s lead in terms of course direction as “he‘s probably forgotten more about this sport than I know”.


“It‘s quite lucky, I suppose, because I wasn‘t far away when the wave knocked him off,” he said.


Burri witnessed Slabbert‘s accident and paddled out to see if he could help. He returned Slabbert‘s paddle to him but was unable to rescue his ski.


He said: “These things aren‘t particularly stable. I tried for a while, with fairly big waves and currents, but when I couldn‘t see Stanford anymore, I gave up on it and paddled back to help him instead.


“The water was extremely cold, and obviously when we couldn‘t find a place to land we got a bit nervous and had to change our plans for Stanford, who I now had hanging on the back of my surfski.”


With the help of fellow skier Brett Caudwell, Slabbert was taken aboard the fishing trawler, Canan.


Said Canan skipper James Rudman: “We‘d dropped anchor just off of Noordhoek, when we were approached by Mr Caudwell to assist some other people about a kilometre away from where we were.”


The Canan immediately set off to lend a hand, arriving in time to take a wet exhausted Slabbert on board.


“It‘s rather lucky that we arrived when we did,” Rudman said, “I‘m sure another hour in that water and things could have gone a lot worse for him.”


Slabbert was helped into warm clothes, then picked up by the NSRI who arranged for his transfer to St Georges Hospital for treatment. He has since been discharged and is feeling healthy again.

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