26 May 2005

Probe will determine if bodies of sunken fishing trawler crew can be reached

The South African Navy has located the position of the ill-fated fishing trawler, the Lindsay, which sank off the eastern Cape coast near Port Elizabeth with the loss of 14 lives after a collision with a container ship more than two weeks ago.

A team led by the Institute for Maritime Technology in Simon's Town is now preparing to start operations to send a remote-operated vehicle to the ocean floor site to photograph the wreck of the trawler.

The operation will be launched from here but, according to authorities, it will be totally dependent on the weather when the mission actually begins because it is "highly sensitive" and demands a calm sea. However, it could be as early as Friday.

The possibility of retrieving the victims' bodies still trapped in the wreckage would be investigated in accordance with their families' wishes, the transport department said.

The news has been welcomed by a spokesperson for the bereaved families in Mossel Bay, where most crew members who perished in the disaster lived, and where the Lindsay, owned by Viking Inshore Fishing, was based.

Since the shipping tragedy, the families have pleaded with authorities to make an attempt to recover the bodies of their loved ones which may still be trapped in the wreckage, lying at a depth of about 150m.

After receiving official notification from Mossel Bay mayor Michael Carelse that the Lindsay had been found, family spokesperson Pastor Leon Prinsloo spent Tuesday night conveying the news to the crew members' widows and families.

The position of the Lindsay, which was struck by a refrigerated container ship, the Ouro do Brasil, 12km off Sardinia Bay on May 8, was located by the South African Navy's SAS Protea, according to a statement issued by Transport Minister Jeff Radebe's office.

Families of the victims had appealed to the transport department to attempt to locate the vessel so that the bodies of their loved ones still trapped inside the wreck could be retrieved.

Prinsloo said the families had last week conveyed their wishes through the Mossel Bay mayor to Radebe that "they wanted, if possible, to bring the bodies home".

"We are very pleased with the news that they found the vessel," said Prinsloo. "We want the bodies to bury. This is our culture. Even if they're decomposed, it doesn't matter.

"This has been a very tense time for all the families. They've been going through a tough time knowing the bodies of their loved ones are still in the water."

Prinsloo said a meeting had been held with the victims' families last week where they had unanimously given their consent for the bodies to be recovered if it was at all possible.

Prinsloo said that at the memorial service held in Mossel Bay just days after the disaster, which was attended by thousands, Carelse and Western Cape legislature speaker Shaun Byneveldt, among others, had told mourners they would do "all in their power" to help the families with their appeal to recover the bodies.

Radebe expressed his appreciation to the SA Navy personnel of the SAS Protea for the "sterling work" they had performed in locating the Lindsay, as well as other navy personnel at Silvermine, the Institute for Maritime Technology, international firm Reson, De Beers Marine and the South African Maritime Safety Agency, for their assistance.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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