Late yesterday afternoon, the NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteer sea rescue duty crew were activated following a request for medical assistance from the Chokka fishing boat UMZAMO, 15 nautical miles South West of Port Elizabeth who had reported that a crewman onboard was coughing up blood.
Initially NSRI St Francis Bay had responded to the call but after it was determined that the vessel was closer to Port Elizabeth, the NSRI Port Elizabeth were activated.
“Our NSRI Port Elizabeth crew launched SPIRIT OF TOFT and responded and on arrival on-scene the 39 year old crewman, from Humansdorp, was transferred onto our sea rescue craft in a stable condition and brought to the Port Elizabeth Port where he was handed into the care of EC Government Health Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics and transported to hospital by EMS ambulance for further treatment” said Ian Gray, the NSRI station commander.
“During this call for the ill fisherman the NSRI Port Elizabeth received numerous calls from eye-witnesses reporting what they believed to be multiple red distress flares sighted at Blue Water Bay (a group of fishermen had also seen what they thought to be red distress flares go off adding to the credibility of the reports).
“NSRI Port Elizabeth launched our sea rescue craft EIKOS RESCUER IV and on arrival in the vicinity a search commenced” added Gray
“Our NSRI rescue vehicle was dispatched to begin searching for vehicles and trailers at boat launching slip ways to determine if any boats were overdue and broadcasts to shipping in the area to be on the look out for any vessel in distress was placed.”
“The eye-witnesses were questioned and one credible eye-witness claimed that one of the supposed red distress flares had been lower in water than the others giving rescuers the impression that the incident may have been further out to sea broadening the search area considerably.
“Despite an extensive search no sign of any vessel in distress or overdue or missing could be found and it then came to light that some people on the beach had reportedly witnessed Chinese Lanterns being set off in the vicinity and it is estimated that this is what gave the impression of red distress flares” said Gray.
The NSRI has appealed to the public not to set off Chinese Lanterns along the coast as they are most often mistaken for red distress flares.