Klaus Heinrich, a German kite-surfer, is being commended for his quick thinking and bravery after he rushed to the rescue of two school girls stuck in a rip current off Swartvlei Beach on Thursday, 17 March. The older of the two girls – a matric student – had herself swum out with an NSRI pink rescue buoy to assist her young school compatriot, probably saving the twelve-year-old’s life!
At the time of going to press, the names of the school-goers involved were not available.
NSRI Wilderness duty coxswain Ian Gerber filed the following report.
At 11h14, the NSRI Wilderness duty crew were activated following reports of a drowning in progress at Swartvlei, Sedgefield.
At the time, NSRI Wilderness were conducting a drowning prevention program for 90 school children at their Wilderness Base.
Eye-witnesses reported that children from a school group (unrelated to the NSRI training) appeared to have been caught in a rip current while swimming in the surf line at Swartvlei Beach.
Whilst NSRI Wilderness rescue swimmers headed directly to the scene, an NSRI rescue vehicle was mobilised, and the sea rescue Jetrib launched.
The Emergency Rescue Service ambulance squad was also alerted, as were the Skymed rescue helicopter, Knysna Fire and Rescue Services, the SA Police Services and ER24 ambulance services. The Police Dive Unit were also placed on alert.
It appears that while a local school group were swimming, a 12-year-old female had been swept away by a rip current. Her male friend (also 12-years-old) swam out to try and help her.
A 17-year-old female matric student, who is a surfer, was quick to react. Using the NSRI Pink Rescue Buoy stationed at the beach, she swam towards the two youngsters who were clearly struggling. Meanwhile, teachers raised the alarm alerting the NSRI and emergency services.
The teenage female reached the 12-year-old girl and, using the rescue buoy, managed to keep her afloat.
The 12-year-old boy was, fortunately, a strong swimmer and, guided by a teacher’s signals, managed to escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach until he could safely make his way back to shore.
Heinrich, who was on the beach, noticed the commotion and rushed to fetch his kiteboarding equipment from his car. Then, launching into the water, he managed to reach them while under sail. The older girl grabbed onto his board and, still using the rescue buoy for floatation, kept hold of her schoolmate whilst the kite-surfer towed them back to the beach.
When the NSRI and emergency services arrived on the scene, all three students were safely out of the water.
They were assessed by paramedics and, after being treated for mild hypothermia, released into the care of their most-relieved teachers.
The NSRI has praised both the German kite-surfer and the matric teenager for their selfless, life-saving actions and commended the schoolteachers for their quick reactions and instructions during the incident.