Ricochet News

Search for missing chokka fishermen enters third day in St Francis Bay

Jul 18, 2017
Search for missing chokka fishermen enters third day in St Francis Bay

The search for eight missing chokka fishermen, who vanished near St Francis Bay after their fishing trawler capsized early on Sunday morning in rough seas is expected to resume on Tuesday as the window of finding them alive begins to close.

Efforts to locate the men on Monday did not yield any results.

"The search for 8 missing fishermen at Cape St Francis continued today, but no sign could be found of them," said the Kouga Local Municipality in an update.

"The search will continue on Tuesday. Our prayers are with those still waiting for news of their loved ones."

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.