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'Desperation' sends fisherman on fatal trip

Published Apr 3, 2006


By Caryn Dolley

The Hangberg community in Hout Bay in Cape Town is again in mourning for another of their fishermen, barely a week after five others drowned.

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He was the 13th fisherman from the area to drown in eight months.

Now, relatives and community leaders say poverty and unemployment are forcing residents to increasingly risk their lives through poaching.

They spoke on Sunday after rescuers recovered the body of Leroy Phillips, 20, trapped among rocks offshore of Oudeskip, between Sandy Bay and Hout Bay.

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National Sea Rescue Institute, police and Metro Rescue divers, a Metro Swift rescue team and a Wilderness Search and Rescue High-Angle team struggled to free the body.

On Saturday, the Phillips brothers - Leroy and Fabian, 18 - had been poaching on their small crayfish boat. It capsized offshore between Hout Bay and Llandudno.

Fabian Phillips managed to swim ashore.

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However, Leroy went missing, and was later found by the Metro and Wilderness rescue teams.

Their aunt, Wendy Amon, confirmed that the men had been poaching.

"What they were doing was illegal, but it was the only way they could help to feed their family.

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"This is very upsetting. Fabian hasn't spoken yet, he's still in deep shock. We can't believe this has happened, especially after we just attended the funeral of two other fishermen who drowned last Monday," said Amon.

Sandra Williams, another aunt of the Phillips brothers, said the family had received much support from the community.

"Just about everyone here knows what we're going through because it's happened to them already.

"It's heartbreaking, but everyone's pulling together and supporting one another," she said.

Four fishermen drowned last Monday, and a fifth's body is still missing, when a fishing trawler, Umlindi, capsized off the Slangkop lighthouse.

Chairman of the Hout Bay Civic Association, Timothy Jacobs, said the community had also been working together to come up with alternative solutions to feeding their families, other than poaching.

And at memorial services last Thursday for the five fishermen who drowned, a list of the problems experienced by the community had been handed over to Cape Town's executive mayor Helen Zille.

Zille said a meeting had been set up and would take place within the next two weeks between her and various Hout Bay community leaders.

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