Paramedics, lifeguards and police search and rescue crews have been kept busy over the New Year with several reported drownings – including four in swimming pools – throughout KwaZulu-Natal.
On New Year’s Day a 6-year-old boy drowned at the Chesterville community swimming pool.
Bathers found 6-year-old Sihle Zana floating near the 2m depth mark and alerted lifeguards. They attempted , without success, to resuscitate him, said a witness at the pool.
The boy had arrived a day before Christmas to visit his mother, Zomsa Zana, in Chesterville extension one.
Zana said he was eager to go to the beach but she could not get time off from work until this weekend. She promised to take him then.
But on Wednesday Sihle met a friend and walked to the pool with him. Zana said she received the news while at work.
Sihle attended Creighton Primary School in Ixopo, where he stayed with relatives.
“He was looking forward to Grade one. I did a bit of his school shopping. I was looking forward to spoiling him this weekend,” his grieving mother said. “He loved to swim in the sea. I am heartbroken.”
At the Tiger Rocks Beach in Isipingo, a 22-year-old man is presumed to have drowned. The man had been caught in a rip current with a friend, and both had been pulled out to sea.
“Lifeguards managed to pull one man out of the water, but the other disappeared below the surface,” Netcare 911 spokesman, Chris Botha, said.
Paramedics, a SAPS search and rescue team and lifeguards using a boat, searched the area for some time, but were unable to locate the swimmer, he said.
A few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, a woman in her twenties was declared dead after drowning in the swimming pool at a complex near St Michael’s Beach on the South Coast.
Botha said it was unclear how the tragedy happened.
“Paramedics found her, unresponsive, lying next to the pool. Advanced life support resuscitation was started but she was declared dead at the scene.”
Botha said it was believed the woman’s family were from the area.
For two other families, 2013 also ended in tragedy when two children, aged 2 and 4, drowned in swimming pools in separate incidents.
Paramedics were called to the home of a doctor in Margate on Tuesday afternoon after his 2-year-old son was found in the pool.
Botha said paramedics started resuscitation on the child and eventually managing to get his heartbeat going.
However, on arrival at hospital the child was declared dead.
Later that day, at about 7pm, paramedics were called to another drowning at a holiday resort in the Illovo Beach area on the South Coast.
“The 4-year-old boy was found in the pool and pulled out. He was then put into a car and raced to Kingsway Hospital. We met the family there and tried to resuscitate the child but he was declared dead soon after arriving at hospital,” said Botha.
“The problem is the time it takes in the car is a while and no oxygen is being given to the patient so it’s difficult to resuscitate.”
Strong rip currents on KZN beaches have also proved hazardous for bathers taking advantage of the warm weather.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve, a 58-year-old Gauteng man drowned at Ramsgate Beach after getting caught in a current and being swept out to sea.
Although CPR was administered he was declared dead at the scene.
Another 15 people were saved at Durban’s South Beach that morning after they were swept out to sea.
Botha said the lifeguards managed to bring all 15 back to shore; however, a 17-year-old boy took in a lot of water.
“He is in a serious but stable condition after the near drowning.”
James Ross, spokesman for Lifesaving South Africa, said strong rip currents were expected until January 4.
“The rip currents along our coastline will be stronger than normal between January 1 and 4 because of the spring tides,” Ross said. “The public is warned that sea conditions will be more dangerous than normal and people must exercise caution, making sure they swim at beaches where there are lifeguards on duty, stay between the red and yellow flags, and stay where they can maintain a firm footing.”
He said anyone caught in a rip current must stay calm and wave one hand above the head for assistance.
“Conserve your energy, discard any heavy clothing, and swim at a right angle to the current as if you are swimming across a river,” he advised.
“Rip currents are normally narrow and bordered by wave zones that will often push you back towards the shore. Try to get out of the current by swimming across it towards the waves.
“If this is not possible, simply allow the current to take you, and concentrate on conserving energy and keeping your head above the water. Rip currents, most often, will dissipate once past the wave line.”
Since the start of last month there have been five confirmed sea fatalities and about 10 more in rivers, dams and pools.
In Port Edward, a boat crew was transferred on to a sea rescue craft after engine failure on Tuesday. The following morning, NSRI Shelly Beach was called to assist two men, one local and the other from Johannesburg, aboard a sinking jet ski.
The owner was advised not to launch it into the sea again.