Five critically ill crew with suspected methanol poisoning airlifted from vessel off Durban

The BOKA Vanguard. Credit: Boskalis/Aankomst Maasmond

Five Brazilian crew members requiring urgent medical attention for suspected methanol poisoning were evacuated from a Netherlands-owned heavy-lift vessel off the coast of Durban, South Africa, earlier this week. A sixth seaman had already died prior to the rescue.

The South African Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) activated the rescue mission on Tuesday after receiving a call for assistance from the captain of Boka Vanguard, en route from Qingdao, China, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority.

The MRCC facilitated a duty doctor to provide medical advice to the ship’s medics while it diverted from deep-sea and headed towards Durban.

Meanwhile, a co-ordinated rescue effort – involving the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the Western Cape Metro Emergency Medical Services, the South African Air Force (SAAF), and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Durban – was launched.

At 1642 h local time, an NSRI vessel was deployed to the ship with two rescue paramedics aboard. Then at 1730, a SAAF Oryx helicopter, accompanied by two rescue paramedics and an NSRI medic; and a SAAF BK-117 helicopter, with two NSRI rescue swimmers, responded from Durban.

The Oryx helicopter landed on the ship’s helicopter pad. The other helicopter and the sea rescue craft stood by on the scene while the rescue paramedics and the NSRI medic took over the five patients from the ships medical crew. 

Medical treatment continued in the helicopter and the five personnel, one in critical condition and four in stable condition, were transferred to Durban. All the crew are now stable and recovering in a hospital.