Local Rescue Diver Receives International Commendation for Bravery at Sea | Western Cape Government

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Local Rescue Diver Receives International Commendation for Bravery at Sea

21 November 2013

On 22 November 2013, Fabian Higgins boards a plane to the United Kingdom where he will receive his commendation from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for demonstrating exceptional bravery at sea.

On 13 October 2012, Fabian was involved in what has been described as one of the most dramatic sea rescue missions to be carried out in Western Cape waters.

In Hout Bay the ten meter long Miroshga catamaran capsized near Duiker Island and 37 people were rescued. Of particular interest were three woman trapped inside the hull of the upturned vessel. The ladies discovered an air pocket inside a utility cupboard the size of a bath tub and all three of them huddled inside as a desperate last chance at survival.

They could breathe but they were completely hidden from rescue divers. Fabian noticed their dangling feet when he stuck his head through the small cupboard door as outside light poured into the upside down wheel house for a split second. Initially thinking he was dealing with corpses he tugged at one of the feet which frantically pulled away and Fabian knew he found a few lucky survivors.

Using his spare breathing device, Fabian was able to guide one of the ladies through the underwater maze which also required them to dive even lower before they could exit the vessel.

On this journey Fabian was injured when debris fell on his head, almost knocking him out, but he persisted and delivered the victim to the surface safely. He went back under to continue the rescue operation as South African Police Services (SAPS) divers reported to the scene and they were able to assist in delivering the last two ladies to safety after Fabian identified their location.

Due to the high number of both local as well as foreign passengers, news of the rescue mission was widely reported and dramatic images reached media around the globe. Letters of appreciation was received from both the French and British embassies and our world class rescue service received well deserved international exposure.

Fabian Higgins (EMS Rescue Diver) and Constable Heino Uhde (SAPS Rescue Diver) risked their own lives under extremely hazardous conditions to rescue three passengers from underneath the upturned hull.

Their actions were recognised by the IMO and they will receive certificates of commendation for extraordinary bravery at a prestigious award ceremony to be held in London on 25 November 2013.

The Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, said: "Western Cape Government is immensely proud of Fabian, and he deserves international recognition for his bravery and selflessness. We congratulate him, and thank him for his contribution to make us proud." 

Higgins and Uhde have been selected to receive these certificates of commendation, the second highest honour bestowed by the IMO and they become the first South Africans to receive this prestigious international recognition.

Media Enquiries: 

Robert Daniels
Communications Officer: Emergency Medical Services
Tel: 021 937 0508
E-mail: robert.daniels@westerncape.gov.za