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British father, 46, is killed after kayak is washed out to sea


A British banker has been killed in a horrific kayaking accident after he was washed into deep waters off the coast of South Africa by high winds and waves.   

Married father-of-one Rod Johnston, 46, had gone out for a paddle on Friday afternoon on his surf-ski at popular tourist beach Camps Bay near Cape Town, where he had a seaside holiday home.

The novice kayaker set off in calm conditions but as he got further from the shore the weather suddenly changed and it is believed he was washed off his craft into heavy surf.

British banker Rod Johnston, 46, (pictured) died after a horrific ordeal at sea when he was swept out into deep water off the coast of South Africa

British banker Rod Johnston, 46, (pictured) died after a horrific ordeal at sea when he was swept out into deep water off the coast of South Africa

Camps Bay near Cape Town where British banker Rod Johnston, 46, set off from before being lost at sea

Camps Bay near Cape Town where British banker Rod Johnston, 46, set off from before being lost at sea

A surf-ski similar to, but not the same, as the one Scottish paddler Rod Johnston, 46, was paddling on when he lost his life off the coast of Cape Town

A surf-ski similar to, but not the same, as the one Scottish paddler Rod Johnston, 46, was paddling on when he lost his life off the coast of Cape Town

Rod, from Dundee in Tayside, had been lent the sleek lightweight advanced surf-ski by a friend who had visited him at Christmas, but they are only supposed to be used by experts.

Wife Debbie, 50, said he had set off in flat seas but said that strong off-shore winds had unexpectedly begun gusting out to sea and she believes large waves capsized her husband.

When Rod failed to keep an early evening appointment the National Sea Rescue Institute were alerted, and as darkness fell launched three rescue lifeboats to try to find him.

Scottish banker Rod Johnston's widowed wife Debbie, 50, and son Dean, 24

Scottish banker Rod Johnston’s widowed wife Debbie, 50, and son Dean, 24

Scottish banker Rod Johnston, 46, and widowed wife Debbie, 50

Scottish banker Rod Johnston, 46, and widowed wife Debbie, 50

An NSRI spokesman said: ‘We carried out an extensive search between Oudekraal and Table Bay and we left no stone unturned to find the man who we believed to be missing at sea’.

The three crews searched until midnight and then resumed at first light assisted by a EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter, which spotted Rod’s surf-ski adrift five miles out to sea shortly after dawn.

The victim’s body could be seen floating lifelessly in the rough seas still attached to the craft by a short safety line. He had his lifejacket on but there was no sign of his paddle.

The NSRI spokesman added: ‘The helicopter deployed a rescue diver who was dropped into the water and secured the body of the deceased man who was still attached to the surf-ski.

‘The NSRI rescue craft Rotarian Schipper rendezvoused at the discovery location and took the body of the man and his surf-ski on board and brought them both back to the shore.

‘The body of the man was handed over to the South African Police Service. We had done all we could and could do nothing more and our condolences go to family and friends’ he said.

Last night distraught Rod’s widow was flying from their holiday home in Camps Bay back to the family home in Johannesburg after identifying his body in a Cape Town mortuary.

Scottish banker Rod Johnston, 46, who died in South Africa and his wheelchair bound son Dean, 24, proudly holding his BA certificate

Scottish banker Rod Johnston, 46, who died in South Africa and his wheelchair bound son Dean, 24, proudly holding his BA certificate

Debbie said: ‘I don’t think we will ever know the full answer to what exactly happened out there. Whatever happened was awful and is something Rod takes to the grave with him.

‘He went out late on Friday afternoon when the sea was quite still and calm as he is a novice on a surf-ski and he had only been out about six or seven times just as a beginner.

‘It was an advanced surf-ski which is very narrow and very light and really only meant for advanced paddlers but unfortunately the weather changed and the seas got very big.

‘It would seem he was swept out to sea and the NSRI told me that he most likely capsized and lost his paddle and if you are not an advanced paddler then you are in big trouble.

‘Without a paddle and as a novice they said it would be almost impossible to get back in the surf-ski but Rod would have fought and fought to the bitter end to try and save his life.

‘They suspect Rod either drowned or died of hypothermia and when I went to see him in the mortuary he had what seemed to be blue frost bite around his nose and mouth.

‘Having seen that for myself I am hoping hypothermia took him as that is a far more peaceful way to go than drowning.

‘He was a very fit man and ran every day and played squash four days a week and was a very strong man so he would have kept on fighting for sure until the very end,’ she said.

The couple met at work in South Africa and were together for 20 years before marrying 10 years ago at the Johannesburg Country Club. They have a son Dean, aged 24.

The EMS/AMS Skymed helicopter that was launched to search for missing Scottish surfskier Rod Johnston, 46, and dropped a diver five miles out from the coast of Cape Town into the sea to recover his body

The EMS/AMS Skymed helicopter that was launched to search for missing Scottish surfskier Rod Johnston, 46, and dropped a diver five miles out from the coast of Cape Town into the sea to recover his body

Tragic bank boss Rod Johnston, 46, from Scotland who died after a horror ordeal out at sea off the coast of Cape Town

Tragic bank boss Rod Johnston, 46, from Scotland who died after a horror ordeal out at sea off the coast of Cape Town

Rod got a BA Hons in Business Studies in his home town of Dundee, graduating in 1996, before moving out to South Africa to be with his father Gordon, mother Denetta and his two sisters.

He began a career in banking first as a financial consultant with Deloitte Consultancy and then joined Absa bank, rising up to the top and sitting on the Executive Board of Members.

Absa Group Limited is one of the top three banks in South Africa and operates in 11 other African countries, employing over 40,000 staff. It also has international offices in London and New York.

His official title is Head of Sales Production (Financial Advisory) based in Johannesburg and is said to be one of the most respected and sought after bankers working in South Africa.

When Rob’s parents divorced his mother and younger sister Georgette and older sister Kirsty returned to Dundee and their father Gordon stayed behind in his native South Africa.

Wife Debbie said: ‘I had 30 wonderful years with Rod and he was just the most amazing individual and so loving and caring although he did have a very sarcastic side to him!

‘Everyone will tell you how supportive he was to everyone both on a personal level and at work despite being at the top of the ladder he had time for everyone who worked for him.

‘Dean and I are just devastated and cannot believe we will not see him again’ she said.

The NSRI rescue lifeboat Rotarian Schipper launched from Bakoven near Camps Bay to retrieve the body of Scottish banker Rod Johnston, 46, who lost his life in a tragic surf-ski incident

The NSRI rescue lifeboat Rotarian Schipper launched from Bakoven near Camps Bay to retrieve the body of Scottish banker Rod Johnston, 46, who lost his life in a tragic surf-ski incident

Debbie urged all surf-skiers and kayakers to visit their local NSRI station and get a free simple device they can attach to their craft to activate if they get into trouble at sea.

She said: ‘They are literally lifesavers and Rod would be here today if he had one. Please if just one person goes out and gets one today then that will be just one life that is saved.

‘Everyone should get one and also make a donation to the NSRI who worked all through the night to try and bring Rod back to me and they have my deepest thanks for that’ she said.

A Cape Town surf-ski expert said: ‘The sea conditions on that day turned nasty with late strong offshore winds and big waves blowing out to sea and it was a catastrophe in the making.

‘You have to be very experienced to paddle an advanced surf-ski and a novice would have no chance in big surf and once you fall in then you stay in as it is so difficult to get back on again.

‘The water temperature was 8 degrees C or below so I suspect hypothermia would have got him’ he said.

A South African Police Service spokesman said an inquest report had been submitted and confirmed there was no suspicion of foul play and the tragedy appeared to be an incident at sea.



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