Just days before three senior ranking officials in the SA Navy lost their lives in an exercise at sea, they were laughing and chatting to their Naval chief about their upcoming event.
In a statement issued following the horrific submarine tragedy earlier this week, Navy chief Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, said the magnitude of the loss is difficult to comprehend.
"They were so proud to inform me about their readiness to proceed to the Waterfront for the Mini Navy Festival and that they will conduct several evolutions en-route. We laughed and shook hands, and I wished them a safe journey, never thinking that this tragedy would occur," he said.
On Wednesday, Lieutenant Commander Gillian Elizabeth Hector (Executive Officer), Master Warrant Officer William Masela Mathipa (Coxswain) and Warrant Officer Class One Mmokwapa Lucas Mojela (Coxswain under training) died after a wave reportedly washed them off the deck of the SAS Manthatisi.
Lobese extended his heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and shipmates of the three members.
"This is so very sad, not only for the families, but also for the Submarine Service, the South African Navy and South Africa in general. We will remember the souls of the departed brave heroes and heroine who passed away serving their country with pride and diligence. Now is the time for the SA Navy family to unite and pray for the departed shipmates and their families. Let us all be strong and keep their families in our prayers and thoughts," the chief said.
Lobese added that the SA Navy Submarine Branch is a highly professional and well-trained organisation.
“That Mother Nature decided otherwise can’t be blamed on the SA Navy’s professionalism. Tragedies of this nature happen all over the world with navies. The Australian, Indian Chiefs of Navy as well as the US Chief of Naval Operations shared their own similar experiences while they were at sea,” he said.
Lobese extended his gratitude to rescue teams who assisted in the rescue operations.