SAAF again comes to the rescue of seafarers

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The South African Air Force (SAAF) helped rescue two seafarers in two separate incidents on the same day last week during operations off South Africa’s east coast.

The first incident began in the evening of 2 February when National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Richards Bay duty crew were placed on alert to prepare to patient evacuate a 29 year old male crewman, from Syria, injured onboard a bulk carrier that was heading towards Richards Bay.

According to Jacques Kruger, NSRI Richards Bay duty coxswain, the patient was reportedly injured in a fall onboard the vessel and in communications between a Western Cape Government Health Emergency Medical Service (EMS) duty doctor and the ship’s medical staff it was deemed necessary to evacuate the patient to hospital as soon as possible.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre coordinated the operation, assisted by NSRI EOC (Emergency Operations Centre), Western Cape Government Health EMS, Netcare 911 ambulance services, NSRI Richards Bay and NSRI Durban duty controllers, Telkom Maritime Radio Services, Port Health Authorities and Transnet National Ports Authority.

The NSRI sea rescue craft Spirit of Richards Bay was put on alert and MRCC arranged for an SA Air Force 15 Squadron Oryx helicopter to carry out the patient evacuation operation.

The Oryx departed Durban Air Force Base accompanied by three NSRI Durban airborne rescue swimmers and two Netcare 911 rescue paramedics.

The helicopter landed in Richards Bay to collect additional gear and to collect an additional Netcare 911 rescue paramedic.

On arrival at the vessel, 20 nautical miles off-shore, an NSRI rescue swimmer and two Netcare 911 rescue paramedics were hoisted from the helicopter onto the deck of the ship.

They stabilised the semi-conscious patient and he was hoisted into the helicopter secured into a Stokes basket stretcher.

The rescue crew were recovered into the helicopter and in the care of the Netcare 911 paramedics the patient was brought to a hospital in Richards Bay where he is receiving medical care. The operation was completed just after midnight.

Then in the early morning of 3 February, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were alerted by the SA Air Force who had been tasked to prepare for a patient evacuation operation from a fishing trawler that was heading towards Port Elizabeth from deep sea.

Kevin Warren, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty coxswain, said a 59 year old Chinese skipper of the vessel was reported to be in a serious condition with a medical complaint. Apparently he fell unconscious and couldn’t be revived.

A Western Cape Government Health EMS duty doctor liaised with the ship’s crew and it was deemed necessary to evacuate the patient to hospital as soon as possible, the NSRI said.

A SAAF 15 Squadron Charlie Flight BK 117 helicopter subsequently departed Port Elizabeth accompanied by two NSRI Port Elizabeth airborne rescue swimmers and an EMS rescue paramedic.

On arrival at the vessel, 42 nautical miles from Port Elizabeth and 18 nautical miles off-shore of Woody Cape, two NSRI rescue swimmers and the rescue paramedic were hoisted from the helicopter onto the deck of the ship.



They stabilised the unconscious patient and he was hoisted into the helicopter. The rescue crew were recovered into the helicopter and in the care of the EMS rescue paramedic the patient was brought to St Georges Hospital in Port Elizabeth where he is receiving medical care, the NSRI said.