Red distress flares a costly puzzle

Red distress flares a costly puzzle

The National Sea Rescue Institute NSRI has appealed to the public, including the boating and the fishing communities, not to set off red distress flares unless in an emergency. This comes after the sighting of three red distress flares off Kleinemonde last Sunday set in motion a massive search and rescue operation.

Authorities and NSRI volunteers say the source of red distress flares fired at sea on Sunday February 5 remains a mystery. Two red distress flares deployed in close succession off-shore in the vicinity of Kleinemonde were reported by a member of the public.

“While they were alerting the NSRI’s Port Alfred Station 11 base at 12.46pm on Sunday, 5 February, a third red distress flare was sighted in the same vicinity,” said NSRI Port Alfred deputy station commander, Gerrit Cloete.

However, Cloete said, “There remains no indication as to why the red distress flares were fired.”

NSRI Port Alfred duty controllers were dispatched to meet the member of the public who had seen the flares, while the NSRI rescue craft Lotto Challenger and Rescue 11 Alpha were launched.

It was determined that the flares were likely to have been fired at least 2 to 3 nautical miles off-shore.

NSRI Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) and Telkom Maritime Radio Services initiated protocols including preparing search areas, taking weather, tide and drift currents into account, and broadcasting an all-ships-alert for vessels in the area to keep a close watch.

43 Air School were alerted and a private aircraft that was in the vicinity diverted and assisted in a search.

An additional 3 private aircraft searched at the request of 43 Air School while en route through the area.

A fishing vessel that was in the area reported that they had not witnessed the flares and they kept a watch.

An extensive searched continued until sunset but no sign of any persons or vessel in distress was found.

The concern was that the flares may have been deployed by a lone paddler; however that theory was ruled out after no persons was reported missing or overdue.

Maritime authorities have monitored the area during the past week.

The NSRI appealed to the public, the boating and the fishing communities not to set off red distress flares unless in an emergency.

“Expired flares should be handed in at a marine retailer that is licensed to handle flares or at the South African Police Service,” said CLoete. “The member of the public, the assisting aircraft and all involved are commended.”

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is the charity organisation that saves lives on South African waters – both coastal and inland. THeir goal is to prevent drowning through rescue operations, education and prevention initiatives. Operating from base stations along the SA coastline, and on inland dams, our rescue volunteers are on call, at all hours, every day of the year. Their rescue crew receives no payment and neither do they charge the people they rescue.

NSRI volunteers visit schools around the country, teaching children about water safety. Their drowning prevention measures include our online training academy, with free courses for crew and the public, emergency signage, Pink Rescue Buoys for emergency flotation, rescue swimmers, lifeguards, and active patrols during peak seasons.

The NSRI is totally reliant on donations and sponsorships. NSRI EMERGENCY: 087 094 9774

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