Alan Meiklejohn, NSRI Gordons Bay station commander, said:
At 15h10, Saturday, 18th March, NSRI Gordons Bay duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following reports from Strand Surf Lifesaving lifeguards of 4 people, 2 young men and 2 young females, swept out to sea at Pipe, bordering Strand Beach and AECI Somerset West.
The Sea Rescue craft Jack & Irene, Spirit of Surfski and the rescue runner Boetie Wolmerade were launched and NSRI rescue swimmers, the SA Police Services, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services and their dive unit, a Police dive unit, WC Government Health EMS and the EMS rescue squad, GB Med Security ambulance services, ER 24 ambulance services and Law Enforcement Marine Unit responded to join lifeguards on the scene.
It was confirmed that a Church group, believed to be a student Christian group from UWC (University of the Western Cape) had arrived at the beach and entered the water at an area where signage at the beach indicates the area to be a no swimming area, quite a distance away from where Strand Surf Lifesaving Club (Strand SLC) lifeguards were on duty and patrolling a demarcated safe swimming zone in front of the Strand Surf Lifesaving Club.
Strand SLC lifeguards were alerted to a mass drowning incident at around 15h00 at Pipe (a notorious surfing area known for big waves and for strong rip currents) that borders AECI and lifeguards raised the alarm and responded to the scene and found 1 female being assisted from the water by fellow Church group members and lifeguards launched into the surf and rescued 1 female from the water.
Lifeguards continued to search for 2 males who were missing but extremely rough sea conditions forced lifeguards to withdraw from the water as sea rescue craft were arriving on the scene.
On NSRI’s arrival on the scene it was confirmed that the two females, aged in their late teens and early 20’s, were safely ashore and one was not injured and one (who had been rescued by lifeguards) was treated by paramedics for non-fatal drowning symptoms before being released requiring no further assistance.
A search for 2 males missing in the surf continued.
The EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter joined the search but despite an extensive air, sea and shoreline search no sign has been found of the 2 missing males, aged 19 and 20, from Venda and believed to be students at UWC and missing in the surf.
Sea conditions were rough with 2.5 to 3 meter breaking swells in 45 knot, gusting to 50 knot, South Easterly winds and poor water visibility.
Police assisted the Church group who have now departed the scene in buses and a Police Dive Unit are tasked to continue an ongoing search operation and Police have opened an investigation.