Quick action at West Pier saves man from drowning

A man swept off West Pier, Port Alfred, owes his life to a combination of a quick response and determination, along with the NSRI’s Pink Buoy project. The man, in his early 20s, was spotted as waves washed him off the pier into the the Kowie River, late on Saturday 13 August.

Keryn van der Walt, NSRI Port Alfred duty coxswain, said a patron at beachfront restaurant, Guido’s, had noticed him because he appeared to be acting strangely.

“The man was wearing a wet suit, appearing to be fishing using a rope, and he was on a section of West Pier that was being washed over by waves in the incoming high tide,” Van der Walt said. “Waves were already washing over the Pier and the eye-witness watched as a wave swept over the man and washed him off West Pier into the river.”

He alerted the manager of the restaurant and called NSRI to raise the alarm. Meanwhile while the restaurant manager ran to where an NSRI pink rescue buoy is stationed nearby on West Beach.

“The manager ran on to West Pier and he was able to throw the pink rescue buoy to the casualty who was able to grab a hold of the pink rescue buoy while he was being battered by waves in the surf line,” Van der Walt said. “Our NSRI duty crew responded to our NSRI Port Alfred rescue station to launch sea rescue craft. Gardmed ambulance services were activated.”

An off duty NSRI trainee rescue swimmer, who was nearby at the time, saw the commotion and ran along West Pier, stripped down to his underwear and  jumped into the river to help  the man.

“But when he reached the man, about 50 meters into the river from West Pier, he found only the NSRI pink rescue buoy afloat with no sign of the man who had by now slipped under water,” Van der Walt said.

The NSRI trainee rescue swimmer pulled on the rope and leash that is attached to the pink rescue buoy.

“To his surprise, he could feel resistance, so he continued to pull on the rope and leash,” Van der Walt said.

When the man’s leg appeared from under water, it became obvious that the rope had somehow tangled itself around him.

The rescue swimmer was able to get the man’s head above water, but the man was not breathing.

“At that stage our NSRI rescue craft, Rescue 11 Alpha, had arrived on the scene and we pulled them onto our rescue craft. We initiated medical treatment and brought the man to our NSRI rescue station.”

The man had started spontaneous breathing and he was expelling water from his lungs.

NSRI medics continued with oxygen therapy and handed the man into the care of Gardmed paramedics. They transported the man, who was in a serious condition, to hospital by ambulance. The man, believed to in his early 20s, is recovering in hospital. He remains unidentified.

Anyone with information about the man’s identity  can call Port Alfred Police on
046 624 1583 or Port Alfred Hospital 046 604 4000 or NSRI EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) 0870949774.

“The NSRI commends the swift reaction of all involved in the successful rescue, in particular the manager of Guido’s restaurant, Irvin Arendse, for his assistance with the NSRI pink rescue buoy that contributed to saving the man’s life,” Van der Walt said.

This was the third life saved by the same NSRI pink rescue buoy stationed on-duty at West Beach and the 122nd recorded life saved by the contribution of an NSRI pink rescue buoy, she said.