Cape Town - The death toll of Sunday’s sea drama in which a well-known Cape Town fishing vessel was swamped by high seas has officially been pegged at 12 after a search for one missing crewman was called off on Monday night.
The fishing company, Viking Fishing, has, however, requested that passing vessels continue to keep a lookout for the body of the lost man, as well as those of two other men who were seen disappearing under the waves during the rescue attempts on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, the wife of one of the victims of the fishing trawler disaster still believes her husband is swimming back home.
Peter Maroon, 60, died at sea along with 11 others, but the news of his death had not sunk in yet by Monday.
Maroon was on the Lincoln, the fishing boat that was swamped by massive waves near Hangklip, forcing the crew to abandon ship.
The crew of 21 decided to abandon the boat when they thought it would sink, but the Lincoln survived the drama and was salvaged on Monday.
Charmaine Krieger, sister of Maroon’s wife Pearl, said they were traumatised by her brother-in-law’s drowning, but her sister was taking it the hardest, especially after losing their mother a month ago.
“In her mind her husband is still swimming back home.
“He was the chef on the boat and when he came back home the last time he said there was a water leak in the kitchen and that when he was working he was standing in water.”
Krieger said she heard from a crew member of another boat that was about 40 nautical miles from where the Lincoln experienced trouble that they had heard the distress call but were unable to help.
Their captain had reportedly said they had a faulty engine.
“Forty nautical miles… he could have gone back.
“It was etiquette, he heard the distress call and the crew told him to go back, and he left them. When he came back to Cape Town he was ready to move again.
“How could he do that after he said he had engine trouble?
“They say it like it happens every day… that is people’s lives you are playing with.”
Lincoln crew member Mogamat de Silva said they were all shocked by the deaths of their colleagues.
“I was also meant to be on that boat but I had a problem with my eye.
“I don’t feel lucky; I feel like it was God’s will that I wasn’t there.
“I feel bad because I knew most of those guys for years.”
De Silva said he saw most of the families as they arrived for counselling and he said it was sad to see so many wives, girlfriends and mothers crying.
“Everyone was traumatised and it is understandable that they don’t want to talk now, but in time they will open up,” he said.
Rory Williams, financial director at Viking Fishing, said the company was helping the families with counselling and would assist with the cost of funerals as well.
Williams said nine bodies were retrieved by Monday and two were lost while being retrieved. Those bodies and the body of another man were yet to be recovered.
“The two slipped out of their life jackets when they were being put on to another vessel. One doesn’t have the words to describe this and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Williams said.
He said the company had experienced a similar tragedy about eight years ago where the death toll was much higher. “The company’s main priority at present is to ensure the well-being of the crew and family.”
*Meanwhile, The Fisheries branch of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has called for a thorough investigation into the fishermen’s deaths.