Knysna, 4 July, 2018

A group of international tourists have been rescued after their charter boat capsized at the mouth of the Knysna Heads

At approximately 13h20, a commercial charter boat, owned and operated by Knysna Rib Adventures, capsized whilst making its way back from the Knysna Heads.

Knysna Rib Adventures owners Brett Gething and Chris Botes have confirmed that there were 11 people on board the custom-built boat when it was blindsided and overturned by a rogue 3-m high wave.

Amongst the passengers were six Dutch tourists and a German family of four. Everyone on board was fitted with a regulation life jacket at the time of the incident.

The NSRI were quick to respond and were able to pluck all 11 people to safety. Two elderly people have been discharged from the Knysna Private Hospital where they were being treated for shock and mild hypothermia. The remainder of the passengers were treated on-scene.

The boat’s skipper, 25-year-old Mynrich Bekker, who is internationally accredited and has recently completed his Standard of Training Certification and Watch Keeping says he was piloting the boat towards the Heads when years of experience cautioned him against making the passage.

He says he was in the process of turning the boat around when a freak wave slammed into the side of the boat, capsizing it and throwing everyone overboard.

Bekker, who’s safely piloted more than 500 boat trips through the Heads, says he managed to keep all the passengers together and away from the boat when he realised the swell was going to smash it against nearby rocks.

Eyewitness John Slauck says of the incident: “Just for the record, I am a skipper and I have my own boats. The sea was obviously rough with a big swell at low tide, so the swell was breaking across at times. The skipper had a look to go, but turned around. He went into the little bay on the right-hand side, which they do many times. 

“It seemed he was about to head for home when he was caught broadside by what I would call a freakish big wave that broke as he was turning home. He did not go out of the Heads.”

Knysna Rib Adventures co-owner Chris Botes says their high-performance boat was custom-built for adverse sea conditions and was equipped with all the latest safety gear. He says they’ve been running adventure tours through the Heads for more than eight years with an unblemished safety record.

On their website, the company cautions passengers that if conditions at the Knysna Heads are considered unsafe, they can expect boats to turn around and make a trip around the Knysna Estuary instead.

Weather conditions were mild at the time of the incident, with a temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, windspeed of 3-7kms, 20km visibility and an ocean swell of around 1.3m. Low tide was at 13h13.

Please contact Michelle Tilburn on 081 324 4660 for more information, or to arrange an eyewitness interview.