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Gratitude shown to ‘Angels of Mercy’

Two local fishermen who were saved in a daring sea rescue and their families treated the “Angels of the Ocean” to a special lunchtime burger meal and refreshments, to express their gratitude for snatching them from the swells, bringing them to safety and reuniting them with their families.

The duty crew of the National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI) Station 9 in Gordon’s Bay were praised for braving choppy waters to rescue Somerset West resident Timothy Crossley, his friend Stiaan Lodewyckx and the latter’s 11-year-old son after they had got into difficulties when fishing in Strand on Saturday 1 February.

The newspaper last week reported that the day had started very well for the three, who were very excited about fishing by boat (“Angels rescue fishers in trouble”, DistrictMail, 6 February). The experienced and licensed fishermen, with the boy in tow, set out from Gordon’s Bay Old Harbour at 16:35, but when they were returning, around 19:40, huge ocean swells and strong winds overtook the little crew and their vessel, leaving them at the mercy of mother nature.

Duty crews were activated at 22:04, following reports of red distress flares sighted off Harbour Island as well as a mayday distress call received at the time.

The sea rescue craft Spirit of Surfski was launched. Rescue swimmers found Crossley, Lodewyckx and his son on board a waterlogged catamaran with a failed motor.

The child was transferred onto the sea rescue craft and attempts to tow the vessel to the harbour failed when it capsized, and the two men were also taken on board Spirit of Surfski.

The sea rescue craft Jack & Irene was then launched, but in the rough sea conditions the casualty boat was abandoned. On Sunday, the NSRI launched the two sea rescue craft and located, righted and recovered the casualty boat.

After being out at sea for five hours and what seemed like an eternity of uncertainty about their fate in a situation that felt like a bad omen, the fishers say they were humbled by their ordeal.

Said Crossley: “To [the NSRI] we owe a massive debt. But to what extent can one ascribe preserving one’s life and those of two others to them?

“It may have been timely, swift and angelic, all at the same time, but the rescue was heaven-sent, and one just relinquishes all control to them. I will forever remember them, will never forget them.”

Last Saturday, the men and their loved ones said “thank you” to the NSRI with a special lunchtime treat at Café Racer at 43 Wesley Street, owned by Cammy Fernandes, brother-in-law of Crossley, who could be there only in spirit, yet fully involved, owing to family commitments.

“This is but a small token of appreciation,” Fernandes said. “These brave men do not receive the recognition they deserve for risking their lives to save those of others.”

Lodewyckx recalled visiting the “Angels of the Ocean’s” website following the incident and learning that they are in dire need of equipment and survive on goodwill and donations.

These men, with a strong sense of duty and service to humanity, around-the-clock, keeping others safe and returning them to their families, even at this gathering were poised and ready to roll if called to action.

“We will continue to support the NSRI and we challenge other to do the same,” said Lodewyckx, who has also given the NSRI base in Gordon’s Bay a much-needed air conditioner.

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