Washed 5km out to sea – then back to shore

By | May 11, 2010

Washed 5km out to sea  then back to shore

A TERMINALLY-ILL man defied the odds when he survived almost two hours in shark-infested waters after being washed 5km out to sea.

Free State sheep farmer Andries van Tonder – diagnosed about two years ago with a rare form of cancer and not given long to live – had one wish: to go on a fishing expedition with friend and neighbour Danie van Tonder.

But what should have been a peaceful, relaxing outing took an almost tragic turn when the pair hooked a bronze whaler shark at Boiling Pot at Mazeppa Bay late on Sunday evening.

Underestimating the strength of the 2.5m shark, the men tried hard to pull it out when giant swells knocked them off the rocks and into the water.

Danie struggled , but managed to pull himself to safety onto the rocks. But his 54-year-old friend Andries was not as lucky.

“I felt Andries just behind me in the water, but when I pulled myself up I could see he had gone further in.”

Danie quickly made his way to the bakkie and shone the headlights to where Andries had fallen in. He grabbed a spare rod and a sinker hoping to pull his friend out, but Andries could not grab hold of it.

Andries yelled that the waves were too big and he was not going to make it. The strong current pulled him further and further out to sea until he was about 5km from the shore.

But, miraculously, Andries beat the odds and survived the ordeal.

“When the wave took us in, I honestly thought: This is it … I’m going to die,” he said yesterday.

“I tried to swim a bit but when I realised that this is how I’m going to go, peace came over me and I felt absolute calm. I turned on my back and drifted.”

In the distance Andries saw a light and realised it came from the shore. He shifted his body and lay back, allowing the current to take him back towards the land.

“There was a time in the water when I realised that I was bleeding from being knocked on the rocks, and you know there are big sharks out there.

“I thought well, if they haven’t got me yet then He (God) is protecting me.

“I tried to stay away from the rocks. All I could see was the lights (from Mazeppa Bay Hotel deck) in the distance. There was no moon, it was pitch dark. I eventually landed on shore.”

Andries washed up 2km away from where he had been knocked off the rocks.

“When I got to the beach I just lay there for a while. I didn’t think anything, I was just tired.

“After a while I got up and walked to the hotel.

“There was no one there, they were all out looking for me,” Andries chuckled.

A doctor holidaying at the hotel, Dr Theuns Berry, treated Andries, who suffered from hypothermia from his lengthy stay in the cold water – at least an hour and 45 minutes, said Danie. …

via Daily Dispatch Online.

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