GEORGE NEWS - Plastic cooldrink bottles, quick-thinking fellow fishermen and the speedy action of the local NSRI all contributed to saving the life of local fisherman Jan Oosthuizen (59) on Tuesday evening, 9 March.
“It felt like I was in a washing machine and when I woke up this morning it felt as if I had run a marathon,” he said the day after the incident. Oosthuizen went fishing near the Gwaiing River mouth when a wave washed him off the rocks.
“The force of the wave pushed me so far down that it became dark around me. It took everything in me to go up and catch my breath before the next wave washed over me and forced me under the water, ” he says.
Oosthuizen is convinced the fact that he grew up in the area and swam and dived a lot from a young age, contributed to him still being alive.
"I tried to swim to the side, but realised that the water might smash me against the rocks, so I concentrated on staying calm while lying on my back to keep my head above water. ”
While he was in the water, fellow anglers tied plastic cool drink bottles together and tossed it to him to use as a flotation device. They also shone their flashlights on him to keep track of where he was. There being no cellphone reception, two of the anglers drove to Oosthuizen's wife to notify her and call emergency services.
"I could hardly believe it when the lifeboats arrived there," said Oosthuizen.
Wilderness NSRI station commander Garth Dominy said in a press release that they were notified of the incident by the police diving unit around 18:54.
"Their call to us definitely helped us to save him," says Dominy. The sun was already setting and there was not much time for them to react before dark.
After receiving the call, some members of the NSRI left their station in Wilderness, while other rescue swimmers went directly to the river mouth. The NSRI members from Mossel Bay were also notified of the incident.
However, it was senior coxswain Ian Gerber and trainee coxswain Bryce Conlon who, without hesitation and despite bad light, launched the NSRI's lifeboat, which is stored in Herold’s Bay, with the help of a bystander, and rushed to the scene. The George Fire Department and other emergency services were also at the scene.
"The victim was about 30 to 50 meters away from the rocky shoreline,” said Dominy. Shore crew, who had by that stage reached the fishermen who were on shore, saw them using their torches to shed light on Oosthuizen and followed suit. Fearing that Oosthuizen could be smashed against the rocks, the people on the shore encouraged him to swim away from the rocks and further out to sea.
Gerber and Conlon moved the boat very carefully along the rocky coastline until they reached Oosthuizen. They pulled him on board and immediately headed straight out to sea, away from the danger zone.
“It was now completely dark and NSRI crew, EMS Metro Rescue and the EMS ambulance all responded to meet us in Herold’s Bay,” said Gerber.
When they reached the shore, Oosthuizen was hypothermic but awake. He was taken to the beach where paramedics examined him. Lady luck must have been on his side, as he only sustained minor injuries to his shoulder and one of his fingers.
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