File picture: Henk Kruger
Port Elizabeth – An 18-year-old spearfisherman drowned near Cape Recife in Port Elizabeth early on Saturday morning, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said.

NSRI Port Elizabeth duty crew were activated just before 8am following reports of a teenage local spearfisherman missing at sea while free-dive spearfishing at Thunderbolt Reef near Cape Recife, NSRI Port Elizabeth deputy station commander Justin Erasmus said.

"The Sea Rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV was launched and our NSRI rescue vehicle, towing the sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski IV, was dispatched to be launched at the Noordhoek skiboat club," he said.

Eastern Cape government health emergency medical services (EMS), an EMS helicopter – Aeromed 3 – the SA Police Service (SAPS), coastal water rescue, the Nelson Mandela Bay beach manager's office, and a police dive unit also responded.

"NSRI activated the Noordhoek Divers (Wildside Divers) who, while preparing to launch on a dive, diverted their craft Blue Pearl II with nine Wildside scuba divers to join in the search and coastal water rescue had initiated a shoreline search and the [police] tactical task force had initiated a search using their thermal imaging camera," Erasmus said.

At least six more spearfishermen who were in the area at the time had also responded to the call for assistance by two experienced local spearfishermen, believed to be aged in their 40s and 50s, who had raised the alarm after the local teenager who was spearfishing with them failed to surface during a spearfishing free-dive.

The two men had free-dive searched in an effort to locate the teenager but reportedly after only finding his speargun they had then surfaced and raised the alarm.

They had then continued to free-dive search before being joined by the Noordhoek Wildside scuba divers and more spearfishermen.

"On our NSRI sea rescue craft arriving on the scene we were notified by skippers of the boats that were in attendance of multiple scuba divers and free divers in the water searching and we stood off, but shortly after our arrival the body of the teenager was located and recovered to the surface by his two fellow spearfishermen, and the body was taken aboard the sea rescue craft and the teenager was confirmed to be deceased."

The family of the dead teenager were being supported by police trauma counsellors. Police had opened an inquest docket, Erasmus said.

African News Agency