Emergency operation saves Sri Lankan seafarer rescued in rough conditions

Emergency operation saves Sri Lankan seafarer. Picture: NSRI

Emergency operation saves Sri Lankan seafarer. Picture: NSRI

Published Jul 10, 2024


The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has commended the co-operation between all services involved in the successful medical evacuation of a 27-year-old Sri-Lankan seafarer under severe storm conditions.

NSRI duty crew and EMS services were alerted to prepare to evacuate a patient suffering an injury from a motor vessel expected to be in Table Bay on Saturday before 10pm.

On Sunday morning, the NSRI Table Bay rescue craft was launched accompanied by EMS rescue technicians, and rendezvoused with the motor vessel in Table Bay off-shore of Bloubergstrand.

“But in highly challenging and unfavourable sea conditions the attempt to extricate the patient from the vessel was suspended pending a break in the severe storm conditions,” NSRI Simon’s Town duty controller Darren Zimmerman said.

“Efforts were made by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Transnet National Ports Authority, Port of Table Bay Port Control, NSRI Emergency Operations Centre, NSRI Table Bay duty controllers and NSRI operations, to establish the best options, and investigate all options and safe possibilities to get this injured patient off the ship by land, sea or air.

“And all options were finely investigated before being exhausted, taking into account rough seas, gale force winds and a storm surge forecast by the South African Weather Service,” Zimmerman said.

They made a decision to request the vessel to head to the more sheltered False Bay, where an extrication operation, making use of the off-shore wind conditions and predicting the lee of the massive ship would help.

“The situation would be better assessed on her arrival in False Bay, although it would be after dark, and this was a tense but calculated gamble not often seen to occur.

“NSRI were confident and after investigating all options, opportunities, incoming weather and the logistics, an NSRI commander made the difficult decision that this would be a long shot but worth every effort to get this man to hospital,” Zimmerman said.

Telkom Maritime Radio Services requested the ship’s Master to weigh anchor in Table Bay and head back around to False Bay.

NSRI Simon’s Town, on stand-by since mid afternoon, were activated at 7pm and accompanied by EMS rescue technicians and a maritime extrication crew.

“Our NSRI rescue craft rendezvoused with the 260-meter container motor vessel two nautical miles off-shore of Kalk Bay harbour, instructing the Master of the vessel to drift his ship. Then, in challenging sea, wind, weather and logistical conditions, the rescue paramedics and the MEX crew boarded the ship with all care and safety observed.

“Excellent co-operation was provided by the ship’s crew and Master of the ship – they are commended for their professionalism and fine seamanship and assistance during the operation,” Zimmerman said.

“In hazardous conditions and an extreme technical high angle precision rescue extrication operation, the patient, secured into a Bowman bag stretcher, and in a stable condition, in the care of the rescue paramedics and the NSRI extrication crew, was hoisted onto the deck of the NSRI rescue craft and safely taken below decks of the rescue craft.

“In the care of the EMS paramedics he was brought to our NSRI rescue station at Simon’s Town harbour where a full team of NSRI Simon’s Town off-duty crew had mustered at our rescue base to assist – displaying huge respect, teamwork and a tribute to this massive rescue effort by all involved. In a stable condition the patient was transported to hospital,” Zimmerman said.

The operation was completed at midnight.

Cape Times

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