Dramatic scenes played out during a rescue effort of an elderly man stuck on board the well-known stranded wreck of the Zeila near Jakkalsputz off the Skeleton Coast of Namibian on Friday night.
Members of the Henties Bay Fire and Rescue Service supported by volunteers had to wait for low tide and sunlight on Saturday morning to eventually rescue the victim from the wreck after he was stuck there exposed to the elements the entire night.
According to Brian Low of Life link Emergency Rescue Services, the 68-year-old man from Swakopmund stopped off at the wreck which has became a tourist attraction since it got stranded on the desolate beach in the Namib Desert with his family and decided to swim to the wreck.
He said the incoming tide and the setting sun made it impossible for him to swim back to land and his worried family decided to call the emergency services to affect a rescue.
“Rescue swimmers of the Henties Bay Fire Brigade swam out to the man stuck on the wreck, but determined that he could not make it back in the rough sea and in the dark. They remained on the wreck providing care for the stranded man for seven hours until daybreak when low tide returned and it was safe to swim him back to land.”
Low said numerous members of the public volunteered their assistance.
“An initial rescue attempt involved the use of a jet ski but mechanical problems caused it to break down and both the driver and the rescue swimmer had to stay on the wreck with the old man for the night.”
In the end a fisherman returning from an angling trip on a beach nearby used a small quad copter drone to ferry emergency blankets and messages out to the people on the wreck about a hundred metres offshore. The drone pilot and his quad copter also attempted to ferry fishing line attached to a heavy rope to the men on board.
Another person involved with the rescue attempt, John Jones, said the little drone and the pilot were the real heroes of the drama.
“The rescue swimmers and the victim needed those blankets to stay warm during the night. We even tried flying bottled water out to them, but the drone could not lift the weight.”
The rescue team also requested well-known resident and surf fisherman of Henties Bay to go to the scene and bring along his championship rods and reels. The idea was for him to cast a light weight fishing line onto the wreck. The light weight line was attached to a heavier rope and the men on board the stranded wreck was supposed to use the fishing line to pull the line on board and use it to get to shore.
“When I got there I saw the guys had a drone and I advised them to use the quad copter to get the light line attached to the heavy rope to the wreck because it was getting dark. Everything with that plan went well until the guys on board started reeling in the heavy line. The current and the surf were to strong and the fishing line broke so we had to abandon the effort with the drone. Casting a sinker and line onto the wreck would have had the same result.”
Low said another person volunteered to go out to the wreck with a rubber dingy but the rough water prevented a rescue to be affected with the small motor boat. He said the waves was breaking onto the wreck and would have made a rescue effort using this method impossible
“In the end the tide went out and the water calmed down enough for the two rescue swimmers to assist the man who was dressed only in his underpants to swim back to shore.”
Low said paramedics from LifeLink on the scene of the drama checked the man’s vital signs because they feared that he might have become hypothermic. He said the man was cleared and after getting dressed, he got back into the vehicle he and his family arrived in and drove back to Swakopmund.