Teen loses arm in Drakensberg rock fall

2013-08-16 10:47
Drakensberg mountains.

Drakensberg mountains. (Shutterstock)

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Pietermaritzburg - A 14-year-old KwaZulu-Natal pupil is recovering in hospital after his right arm was amputated at the elbow following an accident in the Drakensberg.

Xilombe Tlakula, a Grade 9 pupil at Hilton College, was on a school excursion on Wednesday when a rock dislodged on the mountain and fell onto him, severely injuring his right arm. It was his dominant hand that was amputated.

On Thursday, the school’s marketing director Paul Guthrie said: “We now know that the injury was caused by a large rock which was dislodged and landed on his arm.

“Unfortunately the nature of the injury to Xilombe’s right arm left the doctors with no alternative but to amputate at the elbow. He underwent extensive surgery [on Wednesday night] and my latest news is that he is out of theatre and in a stable condition,” he said.

He said he had visited Xilombe in hospital on Thursday and he was heavily sedated and both his parents were with him.

Keen sportsman

He said Xilombe is a keen sportsman; he is rower and also played rugby. “The injury does not mean that he will no longer be able to play sport. He will continue to participate in sport although maybe not as well as he used to.”

He said there were other boys at the school who had suffered injuries and lost an arm or a leg. “In this day and age, a lot of things could be done with a prosthetic arm or leg.”

Xilombe was rushed to Chief Albert Luthuli hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

A Durban newspaper reported that it took more than four hours for rescuers to reach the Grade 9 pupil, who was bleeding profusely after a boulder rolled down about 10 metres and hit him.

Xilombe was on a school hiking team-building trip at Tseke Tseke Pass in Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg. He was in a group of eight pupils, along with two adults.

After the accident part of the group had to trek up a pass for about an hour to get a cellphone signal before they could call for help. Others stayed behind to support the teenager and stem the bleeding by wrapping his arm tightly.

The hike is part of Hilton College’s Outward Bound expedition, which is described on the school's website as a "fantastic" outdoor experience for the pupils that teaches them about teamwork.

Of the boys who were with Xilombe at the time, Guthrie said, “

"I have been in regular contact with the staff who were with Xilombe, and they report that the other members of the group are well," Guthrie said.

Read more on:    pietermartizburg  |  search and rescue  |  accidents

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