Port Elizabeth – Search Google for Port St Johns and you will get more than 14 million results for tourism attractions, activities and accommodation in the Wild Coast town.
You might also come across Second Beach, with images not only of cows lazing on the sand or beach-goers enjoying a splash, but some of the eight people killed in shark attacks, or those who were injured.
For the lifeguards on the now infamous beach, sharks have become a very real and terrifying danger.
Four of them – Siyivulile Diyamane, Siphosoxolo Njiva, Sizwe Dusubana and William James – have either witnessed the nine attacks, tried to help some of the victims, which include fellow lifeguards, or assisted in the recovery of tattered remains.
They talk to the Daily News about the attacks that have tainted the beach they grew up on and turned it red with blood. Despite the ever-present threat of sharks, they say fear will never kill their passion for the waters of Port St Johns.
Lifeguard Sibulele Masiza, 24, disappears in the ocean. Njiva said they had all been swimming together when Masiza fell behind. “When we looked up we saw the lifeguards on the shore calling us in. When we got to shore we just saw blood as it was diluted by the water.”
Some time later, Masiza’s flipper was brought to them with a bite mark in it. Masiza’s disappearance provided conclusive prove that there were sharks in the waters. He said he had survived a shark attack three years earlier when he was bitten on the calf, but his colleagues did not believe him at the time.
His body was never found.
Sikhanyiso Bangilizwe was swimming with Njiva and one other lifeguard when he was bitten on the calf. Njiva said they turned to Bangilizwe when he screamed and bent over to grab hold of his wound. “As his blood began to fill the water we saw the fin and tail circling him and before we knew it, teeth surfaced from the water and closed on his bent body.”
Njiva said as the shark shook its head to rip off Bangilizwe’s flesh, he and the other lifeguard just looked at each other, the shock and fear paralysing them. “The water turned red and we made a swim for it.”
Bangilizwe’s body was recovered a short while later with gaping back and leg wounds.
Bavuyile Dayimane was on duty when development surfer Luyolo Mangele was bitten. By the time Dayimane was alerted, the 16-year-old was already injured, but alive and conscious, paddling towards the shore on his surfboard. Dayimane ran to meet the boy who had paddled into knee-deep water.
“He was crying but was so brave. He practically got himself to shore, but lost consciousness.” Dayimane and another lifeguard carried the boy, who was now frothing at the mouth, on his surfboard to a vehicle, which took them to the local health centre. “In the bakkie he regained consciousness and was rambling, talking gibberish,” recalled Dayimane.
Mangele died at the clinic. “I really thought he would survive. His bite was not as bad as the other but there was no blood left in him,” said Dayimane.
Zama Ndamase, 16, a provincial development surfer was with other surfers, including his brother Avuyile, when a shark bit a chunk off his leg. James, who was at the scene, said the boy caught a wave but lost consciousness and had bled out by the time he got to shore.
Tshintshekile Ndovu was one of the lifeguards who came to the aid the second victim, Bangilizwe.
He was on a kneeboard in the sea when he fell into the water. Njiva was on duty that day and watched as his colleague tried to get back on the board.
“As he was pulling himself up, the shark bit him on the back. It must have bumped him off the board then turned back to bite him,” said Njiva.
He said before they realised what was happening, Ndovu let go of the board and disappeared under water. They searched for his body by boat but it was never recovered.
A few days later one of his legs washed up.
“There was no flesh on the bone but for his foot. The foot was still intact although it was very white so we knew it was him because he had cut himself on the rocks collecting mussels and had a limp because of that cut,” said Njiva.
January 15, 2012
Exactly a year after Zama Ndamase was killed by a shark, another surfer, Lungisani Msungubana, 25, was attacked. It was the last day of duty for lifeguard Dusubana. “We had been arguing about whether a shark would be able to come in, in such shallow water,” he recalled, adding that their heated debate was interrupted by one of them asking why the sand was red.
Msungubana was in waist- deep water fighting for his life.
“He called out to me to come help him but I could only go knee deep. That was heavy,” said Dusubana.
Eventually he and other lifeguards went out on surfboards. “He had huge bite marks on his upper and lower body and a chunk missing from his chest. I knew he was dying,” said Dusubane. The only ambulance in the town was nearby and drove onto the beach, but Msungubana had already succumbed to his injuries.
The only person to survive a shark attack on the infamous Second Beach is uMthatha businessman Fundile Nodumla. Dusubana was off duty but ran to the beach when he heard cries for help.
“I saw a mass of people running out of the water towards me and could not see what was wrong, or who needed help.”
One of them was Nodumla. His red T-shirt disguised the blood squirting from his arms, which had both been bitten. “He fell, then stood up again leaving a pool of blood in the sand. He fell again and I could see he was losing consciousness,” said Dusubana.
The man had been swimming with his wife and two young children. His wife was so hysterical she could not tell Dusubana where their car was parked.
A bystander offered his car and Nodumla was taken to the health centre before being transferred to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in uMthatha.
On Christmas day, Njiva and Diyamane were on duty when the tide started coming in. They blew their whistle to draw the attention of a swimmer who had waded slightly outside their flags.
When Liya Sibili, 22, turned to see what the whistle was about, he was bitten. All they could see of Sibili was his head as the shark pulled him out to sea. “A few minutes later, his torn shorts emerged, floating on the water,” said Diyamane.
His body was never recovered.
March 22, 2014
An Austrian tourist – the first foreigner to die from a shark attack at the beach – was mauled in front of his wife and their large tour group.
Njiva, Dusubana, James and Diyamane were all involved in the recovery of the 72-year-old man’s tattered body, which floated for about an hour before it washed back towards the shore close enough for them to swim out and grab it.