Hero sailor saves Brit mum trapped in shrinking air pocket after catamaran accident

The woman, her husband, daughter, son and his girlfriend had been sipping champagne when their pleasure cruise turned into a nightmare in Cape Town, South Africa.

The luxury boat flipped over after a strong gust of wind hit it as the family was heading back to the dock in Cape Town.

The British tourists and crew members braved the icy waters as they desperately swam to safety, but soon realised the mum was missing.

She had gone down into the galley just before the boat flipped over.

The quick-thinking yacht skipper took off his life jacket and free-dived into the freezing waters.

The brave man found the terrified mum inside an air pocket of the galley.

He then instructed her to dive down through the icy waters and guided her through the galley doors and back up to the surface.

The petrified mum had a fractured shoulder as she had to brave the choppy seas to get to the two crew members waiting to pull her out of the water.

Two sea rescue craft, Spirit of Day and Spirit of Vodacom, raced to the scene after the NSRI lifeboats had been alerted.

They were backed up by the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Dive Unit and a Police Dive Unit as they found the five Brits and three crew members safe on the upturned hull.

The mother had suffered a fractured shoulder and two of the crewmen had suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Paramedics took them to the hospital to be treated.

Everyone on board also suffered hypothermia and were treated at the hospital, National Sea Rescue Institute spokesperson Craig Labinon said.

Mr Labinon told how the catamaran skipper rescued the British mother-of-two.

He told News24: “She was trapped in the galley where water was rising as the cabin filled with water causing a fast diminishing air pocket that had provided some relief.

“From what we understand we believe the skipper of the catamaran free dived under the catamaran after she capsized and he was able to bring the mum up from below deck.

“Eight persons – three local male crew members and five tourist passengers from the United Kingdom – were found on the upturned hull of the boats when we arrived.

“All were wearing life jackets and they were rescued off the upturned hull and brought by the NSRI sea rescue craft to their base at the V & Waterfront for treatment”.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority are investigating the cause of the accident to ensure the sunset catamarans are safe.

The daily trips and £20-a-head sunset cruises that head out towards Robben Island are popular with British tourists as whales and dolphin are often spotted.

It capsized on November 26 at 6:49pm and was due to reach the dock at 7pm.

Tourism officials are assisting the family and the British Consulate was also alerted to provide any assistance, the NSRI said.

Kevin Knight, who owns the catamaran, told News24 he was awaiting the outcome of the investigation and that their focus now was getting the boat out of the water.

NSRI Table Bay station commander Quentin Botha told the news station: “One female suffered a fractured shoulder in the ordeal and she is being treated for that in hospital.

“They were bruised and shaken up by the catamaran ordeal but full of praise for the NSRI and the emergency services rapid response and subsequent after care.”

The boat operators did not comment, but said they would release a statement at a later stage.

The family have declined to be identified.

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