ON New Year’s Day we had more drownings in our little neck of the woods in one day than anywhere else in the country.
One incident occurred at Port Alfred’s West Beach, another at East Beach, and the third at Kasouga.
All the victims were men, two about 30 years old and one aged 65. It is a tragic loss for the families who lost a father, brother or son. There were many outpourings of condolences when we reported these drowning incidents on TotT’s website and Facebook page, after we received reports from the SAPS and NSRI.
We also extend our condolences.
Port Alfred’s notorious West Beach has long had signs posted warning bathers not to swim there because of the dangerous rip currents next to the pier, yet people continue to swim there.
There was a drowning at West Beach just two weeks previously, on Reconciliation Day, when a group of army buddies from a military base in Grahamstown went swimming there at night. Two other men were treated at hospital for non-fatal drowning symptoms.
Just a few days later, a woman who decided to swim there got into trouble in the surf and was rescued and resuscitated thanks to the quick actions of two Port Alfred schoolboys.
Knowing the crowds that would come to the beaches on New Year’s Day, in addition to the signs, Ndlambe Municipality especially hired six marshals to roam West Beach over the entire New Year weekend and advise revellers not to swim there.
Lifeguards are deliberately not placed At West Beach as it is a no-swimming beach.
Locals are well aware of this, but the myriad visitors to town perhaps do not, and may not glance up at the large and prominent signs that warn against swimming there.
A local authority does what it can to safeguard residents and visitors, but ultimately individuals have to take responsibility for their actions, heed warning signs, listen to marshals and not place their lives and the lives of others in danger.
Inquests have yet to be held and it is not known if alcohol was involved in any of the drowning incidents. But it is well-known that alcohol is consumed in vast quantities by New Year revellers, and there is no control over this.
Intoxicated people become unreasonable people and tend to lose inhibitions and take silly risks, like driving while drunk. Just like drinking and driving don’t mix, neither do drinking and swimming. Swimming in the ocean is already hazardous, and at a no-swimming beach even more so. Swimming while intoxicated is a recipe for disaster.
– Jon Houzet