WATCH: NSRI, eThekwini lifeguards help three people caught in rip current

The NSRI and eThekwini lifeguards helped three people caught in a rip current. | Screenshot

The NSRI and eThekwini lifeguards helped three people caught in a rip current. | Screenshot

Published Apr 5, 2024


Durban — Two girls and a young man were rescued by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) uMhlanga crew and eThekwini Municipality lifeguards on Sunday after they were caught in a rip current.

The NSRI uMhlanga crew and lifeguards were going to partake in a joint rescue training exercise when the incident occurred.

NSRI uMhlanga coxswain Etienne van Zyl said that around 12pm, the NSRI uMhlanga crew arrived at uMhlanga main beach – where they were preparing to conduct routine surf training with our NSRI uMhlanga rescue craft JetRib, Victor Daitz.

eThekwini lifeguards at uMhlanga main beach were already on duty. They agreed to join each other on a joint rescue training exercise - something that regularly takes place and they often together engage in joint rescue operations, Van Zyl said.

He said eThekwini lifeguards were patrolling the beach at the time, and their safer demarcated swim zone flags were in place. It was really just a normal beach day, good weather, some public members were enjoying the surf and they were swimming and wading in the water.

Van Zyl said he and eThekwini senior lifeguard MJ Mkhize launched the rescue craft for some initial surf training – the eThekwini lifeguards were showing them where the sand dunes regularly form beneath the water surface – where there are rocks semi-submerged (referred to in maritime terms as “blinders”) and the NSRI crew and the eThekwini lifeguards, on the beach, were sharing knowledge and experience.

Van Zyl repeated that it was a common routine joint rescue training exercise.

“While our rescue craft was in the surfline we noticed two young girls getting slightly swept across the beachline and approaching what we could clearly see as a rip current, but in the water swimming, the girls definitely would not have noticed. This commonly happens,” Van Zyl said.

“The lifeguards and our crew on the beach had also noticed the two girls being naturally swept by side-sweeping natural currents towards the rip current.”

Van Zyl said there was no real cause for any major alarm. They gently coaxed them with hand signals to swim across and away from the rip current. He said they understood and were in the process of doing so.

He said he, Mkhize, the crews on the beach indicated to the girls to swim in a direction to avoid the rip current.

Van Zyl explained that it was obvious that they had started to swim away from the rip current but as is the case in the surf – where there are incoming waves, sideways drift currents and the outgoing tide – even though it was low tide at the time, just by chance and the confluence of circumstances the rip current caught both girls.

He said the girls were in difficulty and at risk of being swept out to sea, they had started to indicate and shout for help while trying to escape the rip current.

“MJ and I, on the rescue craft, quite quickly reached them both and they both climbed onto our rescue JetRib,” Van Zyl said.

“At the same time, a young male found himself drifting towards the same rip current and equally unavoidably he got caught by the rip current so we picked him up as well.”

Van Zyl said it all started and was over in minutes.

“They were brought closer to shore where they climbed out of the rescue craft and they carried on swimming,” Van Zyl said.

He added that in both cases, the girls and the young man appeared to be good swimmers. They would most likely have escaped the rip currents and gotten back to the safer swimming zone, but just coincidentally the NSRI and eThekwini lifeguards were doing joint training at that place at that time that a “typical” lifeguard preventative rescue effort took place without incident.

“NSRI, lifeguards and the emergency services are appealing to coastal bathers to swim at beaches protected by lifeguards. Swim in between the safer demarcated swimming zones posted by lifeguards using their red and yellow flags,” Van Zyl said.

Mkhize said: “We reiterate the close working relationships between lifeguards, NSRI and the emergency services, that combine in our mission to save lives on South African waters.”

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