Braving huge waves and dangerous rocks, the NSRI managed to rescue a young man at Camps Bay in Cape Town yesterday.
18 year old teenager, Shane Keenan, from Fourways, Johannesburg, had been flying a large kite on the beach when it got caught in the wind.
He had gone into the sea after it but got into difficulty and was swept about 200 meters off-shore and then towards rocks at Maidens Cove.
Lifeguards had reached the teenager but were forced to abort the rescue attempt and swam back to shore without the casualty.
On arrival on-scene the NSRI Bakoven searched for the casualty but in heavy 3.5 meter breaking surf and a 50 knot South Easterly gale force wind, the rescue craft could not get anywhere close to the man who was close to rocks at Maidens Cove.
NSRI deputy station commander Johnny Alberts said that the sea conditions were horrendous, and realising that in the breaking surf the rescue craft would be in grave danger if attempts were made to try to reach the teenager.
Putting a rescue swimmer into the water would put the rescue swimmers life at risk, so he signalled to the teenager to swim further out (towards the rescue craft) but the teenager was wide eyed and appearing fearful.
NSRI rescuers could not understand why he was not responding to the request to swim towards the rescue craft.
Johnny timed the sets and managed to do a sweeping pass of the teenager, who was now almost in between the rocks and at risk of being battered into them by the heaving breaking swells.
Again Johnny shouted to the teenager to swim free of the rocks towards the boat but the teenager simply said “I can’t swim”.
The rescue craft was forced to abort the rescue to avoid being battered into rocks by the incoming wave sets and headed back out to sea to avoid the incoming swell sets.
Johnny said that at this stage they were at a loss as to what to do to save the teenager from certain peril.
Still not understanding the plight of the teenager and not knowing what the teenager meant by saying that he cannot swim, Johnny indicated to his crew that they had no choice but to make a dash for it and that he would attempt to get the craft closer to the teenager.
A brief lull in wave sets allowed Johnny to take the craft up to the teenager and with the bow facing out to sea the crew tried to pull the teenager aboard the craft but were surprised to find that he could not budge and it appeared that he was anchored to the sea bed.
In a back wash of water the NSRI crew were shocked to find that the teenager was trapped and entangled by the kite ropes (the reason he could not swim was because he was anchored to the sea bed by his large kite that had filled with water, got trapped in amongst rocks, and was entangled around the teenagers legs trapping him to the seabed).
With up to 3.5 meter swell sets bearing down and heading straight onto the craft Johnny shouted to his rescue crew to hang onto the teenager (who was half on board – precariously perched on the pontoon of the boat and entangled in his kite rope chords) the crew hung onto the teenager while Johnny steadily gunned the boat into the 3.5 meter waves that were breaking over the sea rescue craft.
The crew feared injuring the teenager as they hung onto him while the kite and rope chords were pulling him in the opposite direction but as the Sea Rescue craft steadily reached deeper water the kite load that was entangled onto the teenagers legs appeared to get lighter and manoeuvring the craft through the breaking surf got easier.
The rescue craft eventually made it to the back line where the NSRI rescue crew were able to pull the teenager into the boat and pull the kite and all of the kite rope chords into the boat too.
It appears that when the teenager reached his kite in the sea, rope from the kite had entangled around his legs and in the strong surf conditions and the gale force winds the kite had drifted and was blown into Maidens Cove with the teenager trailing along behind the kite and entrapped in the rope chords.
The teenager has been transported to hospital by ER24 ambulance in a serious but stable condition and he is expected to fully recover.