A near disaster was averted at Natures Valley near Plettenberg Bay.
At 14h14, Tuesday, 29th November, NSRI Plettenberg Bay were called by a member of the public witnessing a group of teenagers, and at first believed to be about 8 teenagers, swimming in relatively deep water off-shore of Natures Valley River Mouth, at a beach known as Beach 8 – Natures Valley.
The bystander felt concerned because there are no lifeguards at that beach and he felt they had ventured too far out to sea and he was raising the alarm as a precaution although he could confirm that at that stage they were not appearing to be in any obvious difficulty.
While the bystander was talking to NSRI concerns were raised when the bystander noted that he could observe strong rip currents in the vicinity and he now counted at least 20 teenagers (not 8 as at first believed) and he then observed an adult, believed to be their supervisor, swimming out to sea in their direction.
While still talking to the NSRI, and although at that stage the bystander maintained that he was letting the NSRI know of the situation as a precaution because of his observed concerns, the bystander then confirmed that some of the teenagers had started to wave their arms towards the beach direction and the bystander, now obviously very concerned, requested NSRI’s intervention and he could confirm that some of the children were suspected to now definitely be appearing to be in difficulties.
Our sea rescue emergency siren was sounded and our NSRI Plettenberg Bay duty crew responded to the sea rescue station, where assisted by the SA Police Services beach foot patrol officers, who waded chest deep into the surf fully clothed to help us launch our sea rescue craft – in 4 minutes we launched all 4 of our sea rescue craft – Discovery Rescue Runner, Ray Farnham, Airlink Rescuer and Leonard Smith.
The AMS/EMS Skymed rescue helicopter was activated and Med-Life ambulance services and our sea rescue vehicle carrying our NSRI station doctor responded.
Two NSRI rescue swimmers who were nearby to the incident at the time responded directly to the scene in their private vehicles.
On arrival on the scene all of the teenagers and their tour guide were found nearing the beach line after they had all managed to swim safely back towards the beach, avoiding rip currents, and the first of the NSRI rescue swimmers arriving on the scene observed them reaching the beach safely without assistance.
Additional rescue and medical resources had by now arrived at the beach and while they were observed and assessed medically it was apparent that all had escaped unharmed and no injuries had been sustained.
Strong rip currents could be observed on each side of the route that they had chosen to swim back to land and it is fortunate that they had perhaps unknowingly avoided the rip currents while swimming back towards the shore.
All responding services were stood down as no longer required.
They are Foreign exchange students, believed to be from Denmark, Germany and Finland, and the man that had swum out to help them is their tour guide and supervisor – they are on a tour from exchange student residences in Gauteng and Mpumalanga and have a further 7 days on tour before returning to Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
NSRI are urging bathers to be cautious around our coast with summer holiday season now upon us.
The bystander who raised the alarm is commended for alerting NSRI to the possibility of the real and present danger of rip currents the group of foreign exchange students faced today.