Search continues for missing fishermen

The Hout Bay community came out in their numbers on Tuesday March 3 to say a prayer at the Hout Bay Harbour for the missing fishermen.

The search is still on for six fishermen who disappeared at sea near Clifton after their boat capsized.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson, Craig Lambinon, confirmed on Tuesday that the fishermen were still missing.

“Law Enforcement officers patrolling the coastline are tasked to keep a vigil. Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of the missing men in this difficult time,” Mr Lambinon said.

On Thursday February 27, just before 8am, the NSRI Bakoven duty crew were activated following reports of a boat that capsized with 13 people onboard.

One person came ashore at Clifton and raised the alarm.

Mr Lambinon said the NSRI Bakoven’s sea rescue craft, Rotarian Schipper, was launched and emergency services responded immediately.

“No signs of a boat capsized could be found and on investigation with the survivor at Clifton it was determined that a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) with 13 crew on-board capsized or became water logged during the early hours of the morning between Clifton and Oudekraal and it is suspected that all persons went overboard,” Mr Lambinon said.

Rescuers later discovered an unmanned semi-submerged RHIB, which was was located 2 nautical miles off-shore of Mouille Point Lighthouse and is believed to be the craft that the 13 men had been on.

A few NSRI sea rescue crafts were sent out into the water along with a police Sea Borderline Control patrol craft, a Law Enforcement Marine Unit craft and the EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter joined the NSRI Bakoven in a search operation between Mouille Point and Oudekraal.

The operation later received a boost when an SA Air Force 22 Squadron Oryx helicopter accompanied by NSRI ASR (Airborne Sea Rescue) rescue swimmers and Western Cape Government Health EMS rescue paramedics were tasked by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre joined the operation.

“The man who raised the alarm and who had come ashore at Clifton was not injured and revealed that an additional three men had come ashore and were not injured and they were accounted for,” Mr Lambinon explained.

During the search, two men were located by the rescue helicopter floating in the water three quarters a nautical mile off-shore of Bakoven. A rescue swimmer was deployed from the helicopter and secured one of the men and the sea rescue craft circled the location and further secured another man.

“Both men, suffering hypothermia, were recovered into the helicopter using a basket hoist and they were airlifted to hospital where they are recovering,” Mr Lambinon said.

The search continued, which resulted in the discovery of the lifeless body of one man.

The body was taken to NSRI Bakoven and into the care of the Government Health Forensic Pathology Services. Police were at the scene and have opened an inquest docket.

The six missing fishermen are said to be from the Hout Bay area and have family and friends holding their breath, hoping to see their loved ones safely return.

Adrian Klaasen from Hangberg said the men all went out to sea to dive, choosing not to use the term “poaching” as he felt the men were doing what they could to support their families.

“There is no work here for these people and what must they do? They choose to put their lives on the line to go diving in the sea and bringing something home to their families,” he said.

Mr Klaasen stood in shock as he watched police combing the area, but said: “These men were taking a huge risk, because the waters were not safe at all to go out for diving. It’s very sad and although it has been a long time since their disappearance, we can only hope for the best.”

Another close friend to one of the missing fishermen, who chose not to be named, said he regularly dived with the group, but only this time, had a good look at the water and decided not to join the crew of poachers.

“I had a conversation with one of the guys who were on that boat. I spoke to him the night before they left and I even told him that the water was not safe, but he looked at me and asked what he should do, because he must see to his family,” the source said.

Mr Lambinon confirmed that several NSRI units have been urged to keep a look out and assist police in their search for the missing fishermen.

The casualty boat was later towed to the Police Sea Borderline Control station at Table Bay Port.