Families wait at edge of ocean
July 17, 2017
East London; South Africa: There remain no sighting of eight men who went missing at Cape St Francis despite an extensive sea air and shoreline search coordinated by the South African Maritime Safety Authority which include cutting a hole into the hull of the stricken fishing vessel.
Desperate, eager and anxious families, are waiting for news. Many were still waiting off at the waters' edge at the time of writing.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said in a statement police divers were able to breach the hull of the boat which was found hard aground at Sunset Rocks, but no crew were found inside the hull.
The owner of the vessel, the Balobi Group of Companies, confirmed that the families of the missing men had been informed, but was not willing to provide any further information, stating that the SAMSA was coordinating the search.
SAMSA's Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, based in Cape Town (MRCC) is coordinating the rescue effort for the crew members of the Maredon. The chokka fishing boat capsized at sea off St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Jared Blows, Chief of MRCC said an aerial search was late today still ongoing, but no sign of the eight missing men who were onboard the Maredon had been found.
Christelle Blou, whose brother Freddie Claassen is a fisherman for Balobi, said they had not been able to make contact with him. They were equally not certain that he was not on the boat that capsized, but confirmed that he worked for the company and frequently worked their shifts.
“I am not sure if he was on board the Maredon or another fishing boat, but his cellphone just goes to voice mail. We are sick with worry,” Blou said.
She said her brother had been out at sea for about six days.
“Police and a police dive unit will continue in an ongoing search,” the NSRI said.
SAMSA said the current search action is an aerial search.
SAMSA said in a statement five survivors swam to shore, one was airlifted and one rescued by another vessel. One fisherman was found drowned.
The drama unfolded when the MRCC received a report at 3am that a red flare distress signal was spotted by a chokka fishing vessel, Silver Eagle, at sea off Thyspoint.
An Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) had also been picked up by the MRCC and additional flare sightings were also reported.
SAMSA’s Chief Operating Officer Sobantu Tilyai said: “The EPIRB was delivered via Cospas-Sarsat – the search and rescue satellite which is part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.”
The NSRI St Francis Bay was activated by the MRCC and the Silver Eagle and another vessel, the Megalodon, were diverted to investigate.
The Maredon was confirmed to have capsized and the MRCC was informed that a life raft had been sighted.
The Megaladon recovered one of the survivors who was transferred to an NSRI vessel and was taken to shore. The MRCC contacted the owner of the Maredon and it was established that there were 16 crew members on board the stricken vessel when it capsized.
Additional resources from NSRI Jeffery’s Bay and Oyster Bay were called to assist.
The South African Air Force was deployed at first light with additional swimmers from the NSRI in Port Elizabeth.
The NSRI said as high tide approached waves caused the stricken vessel to roll over an a survivor was witnessed climbing out of the vessel and was picked up by NSRI rescue swimmers and airlifted by the SAAF 15 Squadron Charlie Flight helicopter.
Police have opened an inquest docket and SAMSA launched an investigation.
SAMSA expressed their condolences to family, friends and colleagues of the deceased fisherman.