The pink rescue buoy at Hout Bay Beach has been stolen for the second time this year, according to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).
“If a criminal tried to steal the buoy and sell it, they would immediately recognise the buoy because of its colour. So it’s hard to believe that the buoy is being stolen in order to be sold,” said Surfer Richard Marks.
“How are the lifeguards supposed to do their jobs without the proper equipment? People are quick to question their efforts, but it’s difficult to work when you have to work harder trying to protect equipment like this.”
The NSRI’s pink rescue buoy initiative to prevent drownings has been running since 2017. The buoys are placed strategically on signs at rivers, dams and beaches, acting as a reminder to take care if there are no lifeguards on duty.
They can also be thrown to someone struggling in the water and used as a flotation device until help arrives.
Each buoy is mounted on a pole with a sign showing how it should be used. Also on the sign is the NSRI’s emergency number and the buoy’s unique identification number, which helps rescue services to identify the location of the emergency.
ID numbers and the NSRI’s contact numbers are also embossed on the buoys themselves so they can be returned to their posts after usage, or if they are lost or stolen.
Beachgoer and diver Melanie van Rhoode said the buoy had become an iconic part of the Hout Bay Beach and to see it stolen again was “quite simply sad and frustrating”.
She had seen children playing with it in the past, apparently not realising that it was not a toy, she said.
“It’s pink and attractive, so obviously it will draw the attention of the kids, who simply do not understand what the importance of this equipment is.
“Only once they see it in action and see what it does, how it rescues a life, will they understand the importance of the rescue buoy.”
She urged the municipality to post more beach signage explaining the importance of lifesaving equipment.
“We cannot just expect people to know, and there has to be something which outlines the importance and, at the same time, warns the public about messing or stealing with this equipment.”
The theft of the buoy generated several comments on Facebook. Alexis Overmeyer wrote: “People do not realise how vital these are to save lives. If they do not know why it is there, then they don’t understand why it’s important. Please make sure you read the description on the pole as to what its purpose is and how to use it.”
NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon, said they had received no alert to confirm that the buoy had been used in a rescue.
“A stolen buoy is a stolen life,” he said.
Mr Lambinon said a replacement buoy had been installed, but he asked the public to be on the lookout for anyone who had the easily identifiable flotation device in their possession.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said whoever had taken the buoy put the lives of others in jeopardy and should face the “full might of the law”.
• Anybody with information about the buoy’s disappearance can contact Sea Rescue Head Office at 021 434 4011. Alternatively, call 087 094 9774 or email email@example.com