Members of the Gauteng Water Police and Diving Services recovered six bodies from various water bodies across the province in just over a week.
In the latest incident, the body of a 55-year-old man was recovered last Thursday, in a dam in Struisbult Ext 1 in Springs on Gauteng’s East Rand.
According to Warrant Officer Grant Giblin, the spokesperson for the Benoni Flying Squad, divers spent 340 minutes underwater to recover the man after it was alleged that his canoe capsized.
“At 15:00, standby members of the Water Police Unit received a call from members of the community claiming that a canoe used by a fisherman had capsized and that the man had not resurfaced following the incident,” says Giblin.
“Upon arrival, officers assessed the scene, and rescue operations were launched in the vicinity where witnesses claimed to have last seen the man. The search was called off at nightfall and continued at first light the following morning.”
During the search, a large fishing net, as well as a makeshift oar was recovered.
The victim’s body was recovered around noon on October 6.
Giblin explains that two teams consisting of two divers, as well as support vessels piloted by handlers alternated shifts during the search using the jackstay technique.
“This method allows teams to cover vast areas during search and rescue operations,” he explains.
“Using two buoys attached to weights which are linked by a rope on the dam floor, divers sweep the floor by hand in search of the victim. Using the rope as a guide, the buoys are moved to the next part of the search area.”
He says that relying on witness accounts of the incidents, K9 sniffer dogs are used to further identify the search area, reacting on gasses that are released by a submerged body.
“Gauteng Water Police and Diving Services consists of 41 members, including support staff and vessel handlers, with 35 members being qualified active divers,” says Giblin.
“These duties are performed as a voluntary secondary function, with divers participating in search and rescue operations in cases of drowning and destress, as well as recovering crucial exhibits and evidence in active criminal investigations. A further extension of these divers’ responsibilities includes monitoring public events hosted near lakes, dams, and rivers.”
Giblin urges members of the community to exercise extreme caution when engaging in recreational activities on or near bodies of water.
“The use of nets when fishing is illegal and those found participating in these practices will face criminal charges.
“Anyone entering the water on a boat, canoe, or any other form of vessel, must wear a life jacket at all times,” he says.
He adds that it is of utmost importance that parents educate their children about the dangers of playing near water, especially if they live near an open body of water.
“With the rainy season approaching, we urge members of the public to avoid crossing rivers or streams and, where possible, make use of dedicated bridges.
“In the event of witnessing a possible drowning, members of the public should attempt to identify two or more stagnant landmarks in an attempt to better pinpoint the area where rescue operations should be launched. This will shorten the assessment period, which in turn could save a life,” he says.
In the event of a suspected drowning, contact the 10111 call centre.
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