In the span of eight days, the diligent efforts of the Gauteng Water Police and Diving Services led to the recovery of six bodies from dams and rivers across the province.
The most recent incident occurred on October 5, when the body of a 55-year-old man was retrieved from a dam in Struisbult Ext 1, Springs. According to Warrant Officer Grant Giblin, spokesperson for the Benoni Flying Squad (BFS), divers spent a total of 340 minutes underwater to recover the man after reports of his canoe capsising.
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The search and rescue operation involved standby members of the Water Police Unit responding to a call from concerned community members who reported the capsizing of a fisherman’s canoe. Upon arrival at the scene, officers assessed the situation and launched rescue operations in the vicinity where witnesses had last seen the man. After suspending the search at nightfall, they resumed it at first light the following morning.
During the search, divers discovered a large fishing net and a makeshift oar. The victim’s body was finally recovered around noon on October 6.
Giblin explained that the search efforts utilised the jackstay technique, which involves two teams of two divers each, supported by vessels piloted by handlers. This method allows for the efficient coverage of large areas during search and rescue operations.
K9 sniffer dogs were also employed to pinpoint the search area based on witness accounts. These dogs react to gases released by submerged bodies.
The Gauteng Water Police and Diving Services consist of 41 members, including support staff and vessel handlers, with 35 qualified as active divers. Their roles extend beyond search and rescue to include recovering crucial exhibits and evidence for active criminal investigations and monitoring public events near bodies of water.
Giblin emphasised the importance of water safety, urging the community to exercise extreme caution during recreational activities on or near bodies of water. Using nets for fishing is illegal and subject to criminal charges. Anyone using boats, canoes, or other vessels should wear life jackets at all times.
Parents are encouraged to educate their children about the dangers of playing near water, especially if they live near open bodies of water.
With the rainy season approaching, the public is advised to avoid crossing rivers or streams and, whenever possible, to use dedicated bridges. In the event of witnessing a potential drowning, individuals should attempt to identify two or more stagnant landmarks to expedite rescue operations and potentially save lives.
Contact the 10111 call centre for assistance in case of a suspected drowning.
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Photo: Supplied by Benoni City Times