Until Wednesday, the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board had not had a fatal boat accident since it was formed more than 60 years ago, MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs Sihle Zikalala said on Wednesday.
Zikalala was reacting to a fatal boat accident which occurred in Richards Bay’s Newark Beach earlier on Wednesday.
Two Sharks Board employees, aged 45 and 43, drowned when their boat capsized during a shark net inspection around 07:00 on Wednesday.
Two other men were rescued by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and transported to hospital while one is still missing.
Zikalala, who visited the scene earlier on Wednesday, described the incident as “tragic”.
He revealed that the boat skipper, who is one of the deceased, had worked for the sharks board for more than 18 years.
The skipper had won numerous awards for exceptional performance.
The MEC said he had been told that the waters were relatively calm when the officials started inspecting the nets.
“We have been informed that the seas suddenly changed when they were already working thus tipping the boat over [which was] being operated by one of our very experienced skippers who had been with the sharks board for more than 18 years,” said Zikalala.
Zikalala together with uMhlathuze Local Municipality Mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo and Sharks Board CEO Mthokozisi Radebe also visited families of the deceased and the survivors in hospital.
“We would like to send our sincere condolences to the families of our employees who passed on. We also wish those who survived the ordeal a speedy recovery,” Zikalala said.
Lieutenant Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed the deaths of the two employees.