A rescued toddler saved his father’s life at the weekend by desperately pointing him out to the Western Cape’s director of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), who was holidaying with his family on a houseboat on Langebaan Lagoon.
Cleeve Robertson, EMS head and the National Sea Rescue Institute’s volunteer national chief medical officer, spotted a screaming toddler slowly being blown away on a rubber tube between houseboats.
After saving the boy, they spotted his father clinging to a houseboat and on the verge of slipping under the water, and rescued him.
Robertson said On Sunday from Langebaan: “It was close; another five minutes and the man would have drowned.”
He and his wife Charmaine were staying on the houseboat at Kraal Bay, on Langebaan Lagoon, with their daughter Carrie and her boyfriend Kent Paulsen.
They were relaxing on New Year’s Day when the dramatic rescue unfolded.
“We were just sitting around when my wife heard screaming,” Robertson said.
They spotted a two-year-old boy clinging to a small orange blow-up tube which was slowly being blown away from them.
Robertson, his wife, daughter and Paulsen jumped on to their ski-boat and rushed to the toddler.
“Once we got to him, we picked him up onto the boat. He was crying and pointing … He was clearly distressed. It was amazing, though, that he was more concerned about his father than for himself.”
They tried to find out what the toddler was pointing to and Paulsen spotted a hand clinging to the beam of a nearby houseboat.
They then realised a man was hanging on to the unused houseboat and was struggling to keep his face out the water.
Robertson and his family rushed to the man.
“He was hanging on for his life. As we grabbed him, he passed out. We had to pull, almost drag, him on to the boat,” Robertson said.
The family took the toddler and the man, about 35, to the shore where Robertson medically evaluated them.
After treatment, the toddler and his father, who displayed symptoms of shock, exhaustion and near drowning, did not need further help.
Robertson said it was not clear what the two had been doing in the lagoon.
“We think maybe the toddler was being blown away and the man tried to swim up to him and get him, but got exhausted.”
Robertson had not managed to get their names.
Although there were many people on houseboats on the lagoon on New Year’s Day, Robertson said no one else had seemed to notice the boy and man.
On Sunday a number of SA National Parks (SANParks) workers stationed at the lagoon said they were not aware of the incident.
Jason Berry, a sailor from Simon’s Town, was on his yacht Aragon in Langebaan when the rescue happened but did not know about it either.
Berry said: “The rescue must have been just after high tide and there was a slight westerly wind. You can usually stand in the water where the man and boy were at low tide. But not at high tide.”
On Sunday hundreds of people flocked to Kraal Bay and children could be seen playing in the shallow blue-green water.
At one stage, children were diving off the jetty, but a SANParks officer told them to stop.
The Kraal Bay incident was not the first time Robertson found himself rescuing others while off-duty.
Robertson said he had assisted and initiated a number of rescues while diving and hiking, activities he enjoyed in his spare time.
Elsewhere, NSRI volunteers were kept busy this weekend with numerous rescues, drownings and false alarms.
NSRI volunteers went to Cannon Rocks, 20 nautical miles west of Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape on Sunday following reports that three men were in difficulty on fishing kayaks.
However, it was found that the three men - Andrew Crichton, 37, of Cannon Rocks, Renier Marchand, 29, of Stellenbosch, and Josh Swart, 33, of Stellenbosch - had managed to make it back to shore without assistance.
NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said it appeared that a kayak had capsized and that the NSRI was called while the three men were struggling to get ashore.
On December 26, the body of a woman, Freda Begg, was found on the shore at Platboom, on the western side of the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
As previously reported, she had gone missing nearly a week earlier after being swept off the rocks in front of the Hangklip Hotel.
Also on Sunday, NSRI Yzerfontein volunteers and Atlantic Medical Response paramedics attended to a 12-year-old boy who was injured when a boat slammed into a wave.
The boy was taken to hospital with a lower back injury.
On New Year’s Day, Hermanus NSRI volunteers were called to the Palmiet River, near Kleinmond Bridge, where a man had reportedly gone missing in the water.
Lambinon said a number of rescue organisations searched the area for some time but were unable to find him.
The police’s dive unit later recovered the body.
At Port Alfred, NSRI volunteers attended to a man who was stabbed on Main Beach and treated him at the rescue base.
Lifeguards rescued a 14-year-old girl who was in difficulty in the surf.
On Saturday at about 11.30am, NSRI Agulhas station commander Shane Kempen spotted a rubber duck, with three people on board, that was capsizing in the surf at Struisbaai Beach.
Lambinon said volunteers responded and Kempen rescued the three who were brought safely to shore.
Their rubber duck was recovered.
Also on Saturday, NSRI volunteers received reports of a helicopter crash near Simon’s Town and red distress flares near Kommetjie.
Both were found to be false alarms.
Lambinon reminded bathers and anglers to be cautious of dangerous beach conditions over the next few days, with a spring tide that would peak on Tuesday - Cape Times