AT 4pm on Wednesday (September 20), NSRI East London were alerted by the Transnet National Ports Authority following reports of two sailors requiring urgent patient evacuation off the bulk carrier Agios Fanourios.
The ship was sailing from Abijan, Ivory Coast to Durban, reported to be 92 nautical miles east of East London.
The two sailors, a 53-year-old Panamanian and a 53-year-old Filipino were reported to be unconscious and suspected to be suffering from Malaria.
MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) had been alerted earlier in the day and a Government Health EMS duty doctor had assessed the patients’ conditions and requested an urgent patient evacuation operation.
The distance and time constraints ruled out a ship to sea rescue craft rescue operation and the NSRI ASR (Airborne Sea Rescue) were alerted to coordinate an airborne sea rescue operation and MRCC scrambled an SA Air Force (SAAF) 15 Squadron Oryx helicopter.
NSRI Durban dispatched our NSRI ASR rescue swimmers and Netcare 911 dispatched rescue paramedics to respond to the SAAF 15 Squadron Air Force base in Durban.
NSRI East London, NSRI Port St Johns, NSRI Port Edward and NSRI Shelly Beach were placed on alert.
“At 8.30pm a SAAF 15 Squadron Oryx helicopter accompanied by our NSRI Durban ASR rescue swimmers and with Netcare 911 rescue paramedics were airborne from Durban,” said Clifford Ireland, NSRI Durban station commander.
“Crew were SAAF pilot Colonel Bruce Fraser, SAAF co-pilot Captain Bertie Fourie, SAAF flight engineer Senior Warrant Officer Rob Green, SAAF Flight Sergeant Sipho Myeza, NSRI Durban ASR rescue swimmers, myself (Clifford Ireland) and Lorenzo Taverna-Turisan and Jonathan Kellerman and Netcare 911 rescue paramedics Konrad Jones, Dewald Schoeman and Scot Mahoney.
“We rendezvoused with the ship 13 nautical miles off-shore of Port St Johns on the Transkei Wild Coast. Our NSRI rescue swimmers and the Netcare 911 rescue paramedics were hoisted onto the ship from the helicopter and we found the two male sailors in the care of the ship’s medics, one in a serious condition, and one in a critical condition,” added Ireland.
Medical treatment was administered and both patients’ conditions were stabilised and both patients were hoisted into the helicopter in relays secured into specialised rescue stretchers.
“The Filipino patient’s heart failed once he was in the helicopter and CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) efforts were commenced by the Netcare 911 rescue paramedics assisted by the NSRI crew and a heartbeat was restored,” said Ireland.
“Medical treatment to both patients continued on board the helicopter and we landed at hospital in Durban at 11.06pm where doctors and nurses took over medical treatment.”
It was later confirmed that CPR efforts had been conducted in hospital on both patients whose conditions had deteriorated and both patients had sadly later died.