Durban - A Durban spearfisherman died while his friend escaped unscathed after they got into difficulty in a vicious riptide while diving near a popular spot in Brighton Beach on Sunday afternoon.

The Queensburgh man, whose identity has not yet been released, had a faint pulse when he was pulled out of the water by lifeguards on duty around 5pm.

But after being resuscitated on the beach, the spearfisherman was taken to King Edward Hospital, but left untreated for 45 minutes by the hospital staff who allegedly refused to treat him, according to a paramedic, who has sent a letter of complaint to the KZN Health MEC.


He was admitted to hospital around 6pm on Sunday but died from “secondary drowning” shortly after midnight.


A metro police officer who was at the beach, and who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said that the surviving diver had said that the pair had got into trouble while diving in front of the rocks.

“The current was strong and had taken them out about 150m.”

He said that the diver said that they dived there often.

“Sea conditions can be rough and very dangerous,” he said.

He said the surviving diver had been “fine physically” but would not recover mentally for a long time.

“He lost his friend of 20 years right in front of him ...”

The survivor was too traumatised to speak to the Daily News.

But he commended the lifeguards for their quick response and repeated attempts to revive his friend.

Garrith Jamieson, a Rescue Care paramedic who treated the man at the scene and rushed him to King Edward Hospital, alleged that staff at the hospital argued for 45 minutes on whether or not to admit him.

During that time, according to his letter of complaint, the paramedics continued to give him life support. At one stage they had run out of oxygen, and nurses refused to give them any, and they had to fetch more from the ambulance.

King Edward hospital staff allegedly told Jamieson to take the man to Wentworth Hospital as they did not have a ventilator machine at their medical emergency ward. But Jamieson pointed out that he had seen at least three unused ventilators in the hospital’s trauma unit when they had brought the patent in.

Jamieson refused to leave with the patient, telling doctors and nurses that the diver was critical and moving him to another hospital could cost him his life.

He also told staff that they had superior medical equipment to treat a drowning victim than that at Wentworth Hospital.

“Eventually after arguing with them (for 45 minutes) a head of department emerged and admitted him,” Jamieson said.

But the diver died

later that night.

The drama began shortly before 5pm on Sunday when the spear fisherman who had been diving with a friend got caught a vicious rip current shortly before 5pm just as they were making their way back to shore.

A pair of lifeguards spotted one of the diver’s struggling in the water and dashed to rescue him. They pulled him out of the water and onto the shore where they began mouth to mouth resuscitation.

The other diver managed to swim to safety.

Jamieson said they received multiple emergency calls from members of the public about the drama on the beach.

“Paramedics arrived on scene to find the life guards doing CPR. Advanced life Support intervention was performed and the patient was placed on a manual ventilator whilst resuscitation efforts continued.”

Jamieson said after 30 minutes of resuscitation paramedics felt a faint pulse.

“He was immediately immobilised on a special stretcher and rushed to King Edward Hospital,” he said.

He said the battle to admit the critical man at King Edward Hospital was also witnessed by a metro policeman.

He said the squabble over whether to admit the man at first centred around which ward he would be treated.

“One of the staff said ‘trauma ward’, another said ‘medical emergency ward’. Eventually it was decided on the latter. The doctors there said there was no ventilator and I should take him to Wentworth Hospital. I dug my heels and refused.

“I even called the matron on duty and she said we must take him to Wentworth. But I refused and let them know how I felt,” Jamieson said.

He said he told staff that the patient was critical and needed urgent medical care, informing them that the law required hospitals to at least stabilise a patient before transferring them.

He alleged that hospital staff called him a racist for refusing to listen to them.

The KZN Department of Health had not responded to queries by the Daily News at the time of going to press.

Brighton Beach Detective Warrant officer Brett Cullen arrived at the scene shortly after the diver had been resuscitated.

Although the man had not been breathing for 20 minutes, paramedics and lifeguards at the scene continued to perform CPR on him in an effort to get him breathing again, he said.


Daily News