A man who by chance took his microlight aircraft for a flight from Ballito to the Amatikulu area on Thursday, says he stumbled upon a frightening discovery of body washed up on a stretch of beach.
“We had an awesome flight and shortly after turning around we spotted the body of a person lying on the high-water mark,” Reghard Roets said in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Roets said he tried to land his aircraft, but the terrain of the beach prevented him from doing so.
He decided to contact his wife instead, who immediately contacted a search and recovery team.
According to National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) station commander, Bernard Minnie, the South African Police Service (SAPS) were alerted to reports of “a microlight pilot who had come across a man lying on a remote beach north of the Tugela Mouth”.
The search and rescue team responded to the call, however, it took some time to get to the man because of the “barely accessible terrain”, Minnie said.
In his Facebook post, Roets explained that the steep and soft beach made it impossible to get to the man but, he said, “around 5pm we got a call that they eventually reached him… And guess what… HE IS ALIVE!”
Roets added that the man was “badly dehydrated, and in a bad way” which prompted SAPS to call for medical assistance.
One person, Michael Patterson who commented on Roets’s post, said he was one of the people who assisted in this.
“The only way we could assist was to send our rescue vehicle to the area with crew to physically assist the SAPS team to manhandle the stokes basket carrying the patient for many kilometres,” Patterson explained in his comment.
But they finally reached him, Minnie said, where they discovered that he was seriously injured and “showing signs of non-fatal drowning symptoms”.
“IPSS Medical Rescue paramedics responded and on their arrival paramedics assisted police medics who had initiated medical treatment and the patient was stabilised,” Minnie said.
SAPS later requested the help of the NSRI to assist with manpower and equipment to take the man to an ambulance on standby.
After an hour of trekking through dense bush and a long stretch of open beach the NSRI arrived to assist.
“The patient was loaded and secured into a stokes basket stretcher.”
The team hiked 5km pulling the stokes basket stretcher along the beachfront, using the stokes basket stretcher as a sled.
The stretcher was then carried through approximately 3km of dense bush to reach the ambulance, Minnie said.
Between the SAPS, paramedics and NSRI rescuers, all personnel took turns to pull and carry the man to safety.
Roets commended the team of rescuers who eventually got the man to hospital in the early hours of the morning where he is in a stable condition.
“I take my hat off to SAP search and recovery as well as IPSS Medical Rescue who had to carry him for 8km at night with an incoming tide. He eventually got to hospital at 1h45am this morning….you guys are heroes!”
Patterson also commended the team, saying it was not the man’s time to go.
“This was a real team effort involving many dedicated people and as mentioned this was not the man’s day to die.
“Yes his fate was in the hands of many but their determination played a part,” Patterson said.
The identity of the man and how he ended up on the remote beach is still not known but, Roets said, “apparently he only speaks Portuguese and is still delusional”.
“I am intrigued by how he got there, hiked and got lost, fell off a ship? Crazy story,” he said.