NSRI fishermen missing

Fishermen missing. Image: NSRI.

Car guard plays pivotal role in overnight rescue of injured fisherman in Knysna

An angler was stuck in difficult terrain after a boulder fell on him in Knysna. A car guard went above and beyond to help rescuers find him.

NSRI fishermen missing

Fishermen missing. Image: NSRI.

A car guard played a pivotal role in the rescue of an injured fisherman in Knoetzie, Knysna. While fishing on Saturday afternoon, 10 June, a boulder fell on top of the 41-year-old angler.

Car guard’s timely notification sparks rescue operation

On Saturday, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Knysna received a call at 15:56 from a Knoetzie resident who said a car guard had notified her about an injured fisherman that urgently required an ambulance.

The car guard was told about the injured angler by another fisherman. “Neither the location nor the medical condition of the injured man was known, other than it was in the vicinity of Knoetzie, and that it appeared, from the information, that a bolder had fallen on top of the angler which had pinned him down,” said the NSRI.

The fisherman who informed the car guard left the scene afterwards and could not be reached for further information.

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Rescuers face challenges in locating injured fisherman

Jerome Simonis, the NSRI Knysna Station Commander, asked the caller to request that the car guard returns to the area where the injured fisherman was located to gather more information so that the rescue resources could be directed to the right area.

Meanwhile, the Institute’s duty crew was activated, and the Western Cape Government Health EMS – ambulance and rescue, Knysna Fire and Rescue Services, SA Police Service and Police Search and Rescue were called in.

A rescue helicopter was also requested to be on standby.

The NSRI rescue craft JayTee IV, with three rescue swimmers, and a rescue vehicle, headed to the scene. When the crew arrived at Knoetzie, the car guard returned and provided an update on the fisherman’s condition and his exact location.

“It appears that while on his way to go fishing, the injured fisherman had grabbed onto a large rock whilst climbing over the rocks, the rock had dislodged, he fell backwards into a rock pool with the large rock landing on top of him and he was unable to move after suffering injuries.

“It appears that a lone unidentified fisherman, while passing by, had came across the injured man who was lying in the rock pool, and the lone fisherman had reportedly managed to roll the rock off the casualty before heading towards Knoetzie to raise the alarm,” said Craig Lambinon, the spokesperson for the Institute.

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Swimmers navigate treacherous conditions to reach injured man

The rescuers aboard the JayTee IV conducted a shoreline search for the injured man but were unable to spot him from the sea.

The car guard returned to the injured man and was asked to wave his reflective vest. He also started a fire at the location to attract attention.

The rescuers eventually spotted the smoke and deployed three swimmers from the rescue craft. The spot was described as “very rocky and barely accessible.”

“They swam medical equipment on a floating stretcher to the shoreline,” said Lambinon. “They then hiked along rocks to reach the injured fisherman, and they medically assessed the injured man who was found to be injured, free from the entrapment and at risk of the rising tide.”

The fisherman was treated for hypothermia and his injuries and was secured onto a backboard and carried away from the danger of the incoming high tide. However, it would be hours before he was airlifted to safety.

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Nightfall and terrain pose additional obstacles during rescue

The first helicopter, which attempted to assist – a Savanna Helicopters Eurocopter from Rheenandal – arrived and located the rescuers but was unable to land due to the rapidly fading light and lack of a landing zone. The aircraft left the scene and returned to base.

Later, two EMS paramedics and three police rescuers reached the scene and medical treatment of the injured fisherman continued.

The call for additional rescue swimmers was made because rescuers were considering transporting the man to safety by sea.

“At 17:544, the NSRI rescue craft Eileen Medway was launched and arrived on scene with an additional two NSRI rescue swimmers.

“By that stage, it was well dark – an illumination flare was set off to illuminate the area to assist the two rescue swimmers through the breaking swell,” said Lambinon.

Rescuers decided to carry the fisherman back to Knoetzie, which was over two hours away. However, the danger posed by the darkness and unpredictable terrain, two EMS paramedics decided to stay with the man overnight and wait for the EMS/AMS Skymed Helicopter, which would be dispatched at first light on Sunday morning. 

The paramedics continued to monitor the fisherman throughout the night.

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Helicopter airlifts injured fisherman to safety

On Sunday, the NSRI Knysna rescue crew prepared a landing zone for the helicopter on Knoetzie Beach. The aircraft arrived at 8:00 on Sunday.

“Following a briefing, the helicopter arrived on the scene and in the care of the rescue paramedics, the patient, secured into a specialised stretcher Baumann’s Bag, hoisted the casualty into the helicopter, and he was brought to Knoetzie Beach,” said Lambinon.

The man was later airlifted to hospital in a stable condition. Lambinon commended the fisherman who freed the man, the car guard and the caller for saving a life.

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