Two Port Elizabeth divers found alive and well after three-hour search

NSRI STATION 21 - St Francis Bay

Ian Gray‚ station commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Port Elizabeth reports the Port Elizabeth duty crew was activated on Sunday morning following reports from the Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club that two scuba divers were missing.

A group of recreational divers aboard a Marine Training Centre (MTC) commercial dive boat had gone on a recreational dive some .two kilometres off-shore south of Cape Recife led by a dive master. Also on the dive were a student diver accompanied by dive instructor for deep-sea dive. Because of poor visibility, the dive master called for the dive to be abandoned and all the recreational divers boarded the dive boat. The student diver and his instructor had surfaced some distance away from the boat and because of the glare of the morning sea off the sea they were not seen. Whilst they could see the boat they were unable to catch draw attention and drifted further away from the dive boat.

Fearing the two divers had not surfaced the dive boat started a search and contacted Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club who in turn alerted NSRI Port Elizabeth. The Ski-Boat Club activated a ski-boat to go to the scene and an additional MTC commercial boat and two CDC commercial boats in the area went to the scene to join the original MTC dive boat. The dive boat had deployed a flotation buoy to mark the initial position of where the dive was taking place and attached two life-jackets to increase the buoy’s visibility.

NSRI Port Elizabeth in the meantime launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of Toft and the sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski 4 was towed to the Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club where it was launched from the club slipway.

EC Government Health EMS, a Police Dive Unit, the NMB (Nelson Mandela Bay) Beach Office and Water Rescue Committee, Coastal Water Rescue and an EMS helicopter, Aeromed 3, were also all activated.

The two sea rescue craft joined the five boats that were on the scene south of Cape Recife.and EMS ambulances stood by at Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club whilst Coastal Water Rescue were deployed on a shoreline search.

A search pattern was given to the Aeromed 3 EMS helicopter and they flew a search operation with those given instructions whilst Police divers prepared to begin a dive search at the initial dive site.

NSRI took all seven boats (two NSRI craft, the initial MTC dive boat, the sister MTC boat, the Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club ski boat, and both CDC commercial boats) 100 meters apart and a sweeping line search was initiated following the direction of the currents and wind direction with NSRI sea rescue craft Spirit of Toft in the middle of that sweeping line search with three boats on each side of Spirit of Toft and taking into account the wind speed and direction and taking into account the sea currents and the initial location of where the divers were meant to be – if they had surfaced and had drifted away then the middle boat of the sweeping line search (NSRI’s Spirit of Toft) should come across the divers on that track.

During the sweeping line search three hours later the search party came across the two divers floating approximately some 8 kilometres northeast from the initial area where they had been diving and they were approximately 4 nautical miles off-shore.

An NSRI rescue swimmer was deployed into the surf and the 2 divers were recovered onto the sea rescue craft.They were both in good spirits and they were treated for mild hypothermia but otherwise, they were only a bit tired and obviously happy to be rescued.

They were brought to shore at the Noordhoek Ski-Boat club where EMS paramedics checked them out and they were released requiring no further medical attention.

They confirmed that with the sun behind them, they could see the dive boat but the dive boat could not see them after they had surfaced and they drifted further away until they could no longer see their dive boat but they could see that a search had been started.

While drifting they made themselves comfortable, they stayed together and drifted. At one stage they could hear the helicopter and knowing a search was underway, they later heard the motors of the boats searching for them before Spirit of Toft came across them during that first leg of the sweeping line search.

Both local adult males, diving instructor Jean Snyman, 45, and his student diver Rezano Damoense, 36.

NSRI commended all services and the private and the commercial boats involved and Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club, in particular, the MTC commercial dive boat that raised the alarm without any hesitation and marking the initial site.

And‚ to add to the tale‚ the NSRI discovered that Damoense had applied to join the NSRI in Port Elizabeth as a volunteer and his application had been accepted to weeks ago.