Ship leaves after gas leak death

Cindy Preller

A CHINESE refrigerated cargo ship will be leaving South African waters today after a crewman died while the ship was outside Port Elizabeth harbour at the weekend.

National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Port Elizabeth station commander Ian Gray said the crew member, whose name is being withheld until his next-of-kin are informed, died because of a reported refrigeration gas leak on board the 134m Huan Yu 1, which is en route from Singapore to the Falkland Islands.

The ship was anchored three nautical miles off Port Elizabeth while the leak was being repaired.

Gray said the NSRI volunteer sea rescue duty crew were placed on alert at midday on Saturday and launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of Toft at 9.30pm, accompanied by a Transnet National Ports authority health official, the SA Police Services, and government health paramedics.

“Nine patients were taken off the ship, transferred onto our sea rescue craft, and the body of the deceased man was [also] brought onto our sea rescue craft. Police detectives boarded the ship to initiate investigations, which are part of an inquest opened by the police,” Gray said.

He said the EMS paramedics treated the patients for refrigeration gas inhalation while port health officials evaluated the safety of the ship.

“The nine patients and the body of the deceased were brought to the port of Port Elizabeth and the nine patients were transported to hospital in stable condition.

“The body of the deceased man was handed into the care of the forensic pathology services,” Gray said.

The injured crew were taken to St George’s Hospital where tests were carried out. They were found to be in good health, Port Elizabeth harbour master Captain Brynn Adamson said.

“The vessel never came into the harbour and the injured crew were taken back to their ship. Only the cook on the ship asked to come off the vessel, while the rest of the crew will stay on the vessel as it leaves for the Falkland Islands tomorrow morning [today]. The gas leak was fixed over the weekend,” Adamson said.

He said the family of the deceased would still decide on how the body would be returned to China.

South African Maritime Safety Authority principal officer in Port Elizabeth Captain Daron Burgess said the full extent of the incident would only be determined by an investigation.

Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg could not confirm whether police had opened an inquest docket.