The scene during the rescue attempt at Bluewater Bay. A helicopter, police divers and a dog unit joined the search (Picture: NSRI)
3:39pm UK, Tuesday March 27, 2012
A rugby player has drowned and five others are believed dead after they went for a swim at a South African beach known for dangerous rip currents and were swept out to sea.
A total of 21 people were cooling off in Bluewater Bay, in the southern city of Port Elizabeth, directly after a training session on the beach when they suddenly got into trouble.
“Motherwell Rugby Club wishes to announce that six of our players drowned at Bluewaterbay beach (on Sunday),” the city’s semi-professional club posted on Facebook. “One drowned, five are still missing and feared dead.”
Rescuers managed to save 15 people – most of them were other members of the team – and they were taken to hospital and treated for shock.
They said the five missing individuals are “presumed dead”.
Crews have described emotional scenes on the beach as the scale of the tragedy emerged.
Rescuers said tourists had previously found themselves in trouble because of rip currents in the area (Picture: NSRI)
Rescuer Brendon Helm, quoted in News24, said: “Everything was peaceful, the sea was calm and they were up to their chests in the water.
“The next moment we just saw arms and hands in the air as the current swept them away.”
He added: “It is something I will always remember. Only eight (rescuers) and 21 desperate people with wide open eyes begging to come out.”
An air force helicopter joined a police dive unit and lifeguards to search for the missing players, who are all believed to be aged in their early 20s, on Monday, South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said.
A number of lifeguards have been commended for their efforts, with some managing to bring as many as three people back to the shore in one go.
Mr Helm said: “Some of us took out two or three at a time and almost got into trouble ourselves.”
Supporters have expressed their shock on Motherwell Rugby Club’s Facebook page
The incident is being reported as the single biggest loss of life by drowning in South Africa for decades.
Andrew Ingram, from the NSRI, told Sky News Online tourists had previously been caught up in rip currents in the area.
“The stretch of east coast from Mossel Bay up to Port Elizabeth is very dangerous and we have had to put together special rescue techniques because of these currents,” he said.
The club had been training to take part in a nationwide tournament in Cape Town over Easter weekend.
On Tuesday morning it posted a further message on Facebook thanking the rugby community for its support and adding: “The search for the remaining five bodies is still on, there has been no luck yet.”
Article source: http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16197030