Eight crew still missing from capsized chokka fishing boat
There were still eight crew members missing from the ill-fated Chokka fishing boat Maredon that capsized off Thyspunt early Sunday morning. An extensive sea, air and shoreline search was called off late into the evening Sunday with the police, police dive unit and NSRI St Francis Bay remaining on high alert. The search for the missing crew will resume this morning.
NSRI St Francis Bay duty crew were activated by MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) following reports of red distress flares reported by Chokka fishing vessels at sea off-shore of Thyspoint at around 03h30 on Sunday morning. The Chokka fishing vessel Silver Eagle had witnessed the red distress flares at around 03h00 and raised the alarm calling Telkom Maritime Radio Services and MRCC.
An EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon had then also been intercepted by MRCC and additional flare sightings were reported.
Two Chokka fishing vessels, Silver Eagle and Megalodon, diverted to investigate and the Chokka fishing vessel Maredon was then confirmed to have capsized.
NSRI St Francis Bay launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II in rough sea conditions with six meter swells and a gusting to 50 knots westerly wind and driving rain. It was confirmed that the vessel had 16 crew members aboard at the time of the disaster and a search commenced for survivors.
In addition to NSRI Spirit of St Francis II, the SA Police Services, Private Care ambulance services, local security company members, NSRI Jeffreys Bay and NSRI Oyster Bay, EC Government Health EMS, a Police Dive Unit and an NSRI Port Elizabeth NSRI ASR team aboard an SA Air Force 15 Squadron Charlie Flight BK-117 helicopter and the Kouga Municipality’s Fire and Disaster team also responded to assist in the search for the missing crew.
Silver Eagle reported a life-raft the life-raft had drifting too close into towards the rocks and could not be reached and the vessel Megalodon reporting it had recovered one survivor from the water. The survivor was transferred from the Megalodon onto the NSRI sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II and he was brought to shore where he was transported to hospital by Private Care ambulance services in a stable condition.
During a search members of the public, including the owner of other Chokka fishing boats and NSRI rescuers, recovered a deceased fisherman on the shore in the vicinity of Sunset Rocks and five survivors were found on the beach at Sunset Rocks. The deceased man was taken into the care of the Forensic Pathology Services.
The Maredon was found capsized and hard aground at Sunset Rocks but surf conditions did not allow rescuers to get close to the stricken vessel during the high tide. As high tide approached waves caused the stricken vessel to roll over a few times and one survivor was witnessed climbing out of the vessel and NSRI rescue swimmers waded into the water and rescued the survivor who has been airlifted to hospital by the SAAF 15 Squadron Charlie Flight helicopter in a stable condition.
As the tide receded police divers were able to breach the hull of the boat using cutting tools but no crew were found inside the hull. Police and a Police Dive Unit will continue in an ongoing search and recovery operation assisted by NSRI St Francis Bay.
When the search was called off last light one deceased crew member had been recovered with seven survivors, six of whom have been hospitalised and are reported to be in stable conditions. Eight crew are still missing.
Commenting on the disaster, Kouga Mayor Elza van Lingen commented on the emergency crews that reacted to the disaster.
“”They did a great job and we are very grateful for their efforts. We are only sorry that not all lives could be saved. Our deepest condolences go to the family of the fisherman who drowned and our prayers are with those still waiting for news of their loved ones.”
All involved in the search and rescue operation today are commended for their efforts in extremely rough sea conditions.
Sincere Condolences are conveyed to family, friends and colleagues of the deceased fisherman.
Police have opened an inquest docket and SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) are launching an investigation.
The search for the missing crewmen contiinued at first light this morning