Ricochet News

Body found as search for missing chokka fishermen continues in St Francis Bay

Jul 19, 2017
Body found as search for missing chokka fishermen continues in St Francis Bay

A body that could be of one of the eight chokka fishermen, who went missing in the St Francis Bay area after their fishing trawler capsized early on Sunday morning in rough seas, was picked up on Wednesday by those conducting search operations.

"The body of one of the eight missing chokka fishermen is believed to have been found out at sea in the direction of Blue Horizon Bay and is being brought in for identification," the Kouga Local Municipality said in a short update on the situation on Wednesday.

Two bodies have now been recovered since the tragedy.

"The search continues. All the best to the teams combing the coast and ocean for signs of the missing fishermen," the municipality said.

Efforts to locate the men on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday did not yield any results.

The families, who spoke to a local paper, continue to hold onto hope that the missing men will soon be located.

Tragic accident

"At 03h30, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) St Francis Bay duty crew were activated by MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) following reports of red distress flares reported by Chokka fishing vessels at sea off-shore of Thyspunt," described NSRI spokesperson, Craig Lambinon.

"The Chokka fishing vessel, Silver Eagle, had witnessed the red distress flares at around 03h00 and raised the alarm calling Telkom Maritime Radio Services and MRCC.

"An EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon had then also been intercepted by MRCC and additional flare sightings were reported."

Lambinon said that two Chokka fishing vessels, Silver Eagle and Megalodon, diverted to investigate and the Chokka fishing vessel, Maredon, was then confirmed to have capsized.

"It appears that Silver Eagle came upon a life-raft and reported that the life-raft had drifted too close into towards the rocks and could not be reached.

"Megalodon reported to have recovered one survivor from the water," he added.

"NSRI St Francis Bay launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II into rough sea conditions with 6 meter swells and a gusting to 50 knots Westerly wind and rain and a search commenced for survivors of the Chokka fishing boat Maredon confirmed to have 16 crew onboard."

The SA Police Services, Private Care ambulance services, local security company members, NSRI Jeffreys Bay and NSRI Oyster Bay, EC Government Health EMS, a Police Dive Unit and an NSRI Port Elizabeth NSRI ASR team aboard an SA Air Force 15 Squadron Charlie Flight BK-117 helicopter responded.

"Shore patrols and a sea and air search continued.

"One survivor was transferred from the Chokka fishing vessel, Megalodon, onto the NSRI sea rescue craft, Spirit of St Francis II, and he was brought to shore and he has been transported to hospital by Private Care ambulance services in a stable condition," Lambinon described.

"During a search members of the public, including the owner of other Chokka fishing boats, and NSRI rescuers, one deceased fisherman was recovered on the shore in the vicinity of Sunset Rocks and five survivors were found on the beach at Sunset Rocks.

"The deceased man has been taken into the care of the Forensic Pathology Services."

The Maredon was found capsized and hard aground at Sunset Rocks, but surf conditions did not allow rescuers to get close to the stricken vessel during the high tide.

"As high tide approached waves caused the stricken vessel to roll over a few times and one survivor was witnessed climbing out of the vessel and NSRI rescue swimmers waded into the water and rescued the survivor, who has been airlifted to hospital by the SAAF 15 Squadron Charlie Flight helicopter in a stable condition," said Lambinon.

"At this stage, there is one fishermen recovered and confirmed to be deceased, 7 survivors recovered of which 6 have been hospitalised and reported to be in stable conditions and 8 crew, who are missing."

Lambinon said that police divers were later able to breach the hull of the boat using cutting tools, but no crew were found inside the hull.

Police have opened an inquest docket and SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) are launching an investigation.

This is an ongoing operation and updates will follow.