Belfast Telegraph

Retired teacher speaks of attempts to save John and Lynette Rodgers on South African beach

Couple 'looked at peace' says 70-year-old who came across newlyweds

By Ali Gordon

A retired teacher who dragged John and Lynette Rodgers’ bodies from the sea has told Sunday Life that the tragic newlyweds “looked at peace with what had happened”.

John Hall was on his daily walk along the beach in South Africa’s Plettenberg Bay when he saw the couple’s bodies floating in the water.

The 70-year-old revealed how paramedics tried desperately to revive John and Lynette after he helped pull their bodies from the sea.

He told Sunday Life: “We all knew that they were dead, but we certainly weren’t going to give up.

“The resuscitation carried on for around 45 minutes to an hour to no avail before they were pronounced dead by a doctor on the scene.”

John says he has been left deeply traumatised by what happened last weekend in “paradise”.

“It is paradise down here so walking is usually such a pleasure,” he said, speaking from his home which is located only 500m from the picturesque Robberg beach where honeymooners John and Lynette drowned.

“But last Friday afternoon, I left home at about 5pm to walk along the blue-flag beach for a walk I will never forget — for all the wrong reasons.”

Mr Hall added: “Most afternoons, weather permitting, I walk down to the beach to get a little bit of fresh air and after that, I feel fulfilled.

“It is such a beautiful part of the world so I was stood on the deck, looking up at the mountains and a strong easterly wind was coming off the sea onto shore.

“It was virtually deserted, apart from two women.

“I thought to myself ‘what on earth are they doing walking along the beach in this foul weather?’ because by this point, the wind had started really blowing and it was getting quite cold.

“I was just about to turn around and go home when I looked down into the water and couldn’t believe what I saw — it was a man’s body, face down, in the shallow water.

“I raced down onto the beach and called the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), fortunately the number of which I had stored on my phone, and a younger man, followed by a third man, ran to help me get John’s body out of the water.

“I am not a young man and would have been unable to drag the body out of the water on my own.”

After the brave local men had brought John’s body onto the beach, they were alerted by two “very distressed” women of another body in the sea.

“It has been reported that John and Lynette were 200m away from each other, but they were much closer than that,” said John.

“No more than 20 metres away, two women had found another body which turned out to be Lynette, so again we dragged the body out of the water.

“There was no agony or distress on either of their faces — they looked at peace with what had happened.

“They were very peaceful lying on the beach beside one another.”

He added: “Once Lynette’s body had been taken out of the water, the whole town descended onto the beach.

“Two boats from NSRI couldn’t have been more than three minutes and then pouring onto the beach were police, paramedics and an ambulance.

“Everyone just wanted to do as much as they could to help the young couple. “

He described how paramedics tried in vain to revive the John and Lynette.

John said: “I have been left traumatised after what happened, as have a lot of people.

“I have had trouble sleeping because I keep thinking about what happened.

“The whole town is devastated and every time I go down to the beach, I can think of little else now. I don’t think this town will ever truly get over it.”

He added: “Weather conditions can be difficult in South Africa and when you’ve just arrived at your hotel and you’re excited about getting into the sea for a swim, you are not going to be too worried about these conditions.

“The sea in Ireland is very different from the one in South Africa and things can change very, very quickly. I can only imagine that they have got into a bit of trouble with a rip-tide and one has tried to save the other and they haven’t been able to get themselves out of it.

“Whatever happened, it is not something I ever wish to experience again and my deepest sympathies go out to both John and Lynette’s parents.

“On behalf of the people of Plettenberg Bay, I hope the friends and family of Lynette and John in Northern Ireland know that they are in our thoughts.

“From being there, I know that John and Lynette weren’t in any pain and I hope it can be of some comfort to their parents, if only a little, to know that they looked at peace.

“The entire population of Plettenberg Bay is reaching out to the family and friends of John and Lynette Rodgers and praying for them during the extremely difficult time.

“It was a real tragedy — a total waste of two young lives who were only at the beginnning of their journey together. This is such a beautiful part of the world and this tragedy has absolutely rocked it.”

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