Two men and one woman died after a submarine training exercise went horribly wrong.
The tragedy happened yesterday afternoon while the South African Navy was working off the village of Kommetjie, near Cape Town.
Seven crew members were on top of the vessel, carrying out a drill with an Air Force helicopter, when a wave swept them overboard and pulled them out to sea.
All seven mariners were found but two of the men died, despite receiving CPR, with a senior officer taken to hospital in critical condition.
A woman who had managed to stay on the submarine was also declared dead once she was removed from it.
Four men were not injured, but a surface swimmer who had been dispatched from the helicopter to help was also hospitalised.
Defence expert Darren Olivier said although incidents such as this have ‘happened to some of the best trained and best-funded navies in the world’, there are questions about what went wrong.
The director of the African Defence Review, which provides intelligence for military and private organisations, told News24 there has been ‘a serious failure somewhere’.
Many are questioning why a training exercise was allowed to take place this week, after many coastal parts of South Africa were battered by what described as ‘tsunami-like’ waves last weekend.
Two died and multiple others were wounded in the phenomenon known as ‘spring tide’, which brought waves as high as 9.5 metres.
Photos and videos show cars being washed away, buildings being destroyed and seaside restaurants getting decimated.
One of the people who lost their lives was 93-year-old Jo Hartman, who was dragged at least 200 metres by a wave when it crashed into a parking lot in the town of Wilderness, near Cape Town.
She was rescued from the water but died on the way to the hospital because ‘the shock was too much for her body’, her son Paul Louw told News24.
The same wave pinned their family friend, Jaco Joubert, underneath a car where he thought he was going to drown in the dark.
Louw’s sister, Ronel Lindemann, broke three ribs and is still recovering from her injuries.
Local ward councillor Marlene Barnardt described the chaos as the waves hit and a little boy was swept away.
She said: ‘He was just hysterical and crying. His parents got him. But a little way off, there was an old lady sitting there. She was soaking wet and shivering. A man had blood all over his head.’
Elsewhere in Cape Town, an elderly man on a bodyboard found himself caught up in riptide currents.
He managed to get himself out of the water and was taken to hospital with hypothermia – he is expected to make a full recovery.
Parts of Gqeberha, previously Port Elizabeth, were evacuated.
Although conditions started calming down after Saturday, the South African Weather Service was still warning of ‘damaging waves’ in Cape Town on Tuesday and Wednesday.
An investigation has been launched into what exactly led to yesterday’s deaths, the South African Department of Defence confirmed.
It also gave its condolences to ‘the families of the members who tragically lost their lives’.
The SA National Defence Union did the same before reminding the public ‘of the extreme and real risks which members of the South African National Defence Force expose themselves to in service of our country’.
What are spring tides?
During full or new moons—which occur when the Earth, sun, and moon are nearly in alignment—average tidal ranges are slightly larger. This occurs twice each month.
The moon appears new (dark) when it is directly between the Earth and the sun. The moon appears full when the Earth is between the moon and the sun. In both cases, the gravitational pull of the sun is ‘added’ to the gravitational pull of the moon on Earth, causing the oceans to bulge a bit more than usual. This means that high tides are a little higher and low tides are a little lower than average.
These are called spring tides, a common historical term that has nothing to do with the season of spring. Rather, the term is derived from the concept of the tide ‘springing forth.’ Spring tides occur twice each lunar month all year long, without regard to the season.
Source: National Ocean Service
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