Search goes on for missing Plett fishermen

Janine Oelofse

POLICE and NSRI divers continued to search the ocean and Keurbooms River mouth in Plettenberg Bay yesterday for four fishermen still missing after their small boat sank last Thursday night.

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said the huge search operation, which included helicopters, had found no trace of the boat or the missing men. It was feared they had been swept out to sea.

Weeping family and friends have gathered on the dunes outside the Keurbooms caravan park every day, waiting for word of their loved ones.

While rescuers continued the search over the weekend, despite 6m swells and gale-force winds, some family members demanded the search continue through the night.

Dawid Wildeman, whose wife Letitia, 43, and eight-year-old son Luan were on the missing boat, said he and two friends, Roland Pietersen and Hendrik Julius, had followed the boat in a canoe at about 5pm on Thursday.

He said the family had decided on a fishing trip to celebrate Women’s Day.

Letitia’s body was recovered in the river mouth on Thursday night by the NSRI and Luan’s body was found the next day, also in the river mouth.

NSRI Plett station commander Deon Truter said the conditions had been calm, with 2m to 4m swells that night.

Wildeman said he received a call on his cellphone from someone on the boat at about 7pm, saying they had struck a sand bank. Then the signal was lost.

“We tried to call back but there was no signal. We couldn’t see anything and we couldn’t hear the boat’s engine. It was dead quiet.”

He and his friends ran up and down the river bank looking for their family members, but could see nothing.

Julius was dispatched to the Keurbooms camping ground, where he alerted a holiday-maker to the emergency.

“The families have gathered on the beach every day, but emotions are running high now and they want the search to continue through the night,” he said.

Still missing are skipper Jeffrey Wildeman, Llewellyn Wildeman, Henry Waits and Roland Figland.

The men, all breadwinners in the small community of New Horizons, are all aged between 40 and 50.

Figland’s partner, Melinda Solomons, said the families wanted the bodies found so that they could find closure.

Nic Waits, the oldest brother in the Waits and Wildeman families, who are related by marriage, said no funeral arrangements had been made yet.

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