Injured teenager survives freezing night on mountain after fall

2013-04-05 00:00

A YOUNG woman survived the first really cold night of the year on the Eastern Cape Drakensberg after slipping and breaking her leg.

Jeanelle Greyling (19) of Bloemfontein slipped and fell about 130 metres while walking alone.

If she had not grabbed a little branch to slow her fall, she could have fallen to her death.

As it was, she was only found by friends after 9 pm, after falling at around 6 pm.

They stayed with her, feeding her hot coffee and telling her jokes to help her get through the bitterly cold night. The mercury fell to minus two degrees overnight.

Greyling could only be taken off the mountain yesterday afternoon and was airlifted to East London for treatment.

Aside from her broken leg, she also injured her spine and ankle in her wild slide down the slope, and suffered numerous scrapes and bruises, as well as a degree of hypothermia.

Paramedics were unable to reach her on Wednesday night because of the difficult terrain and darkness.

Greyling was visiting a friend for a 21st birthday party on the farm Glass Neven near Barkly East in the Eastern Cape.

On Wednesday, she went for a walk alone, and at about 6 pm slipped and fell as she returned in the dark.

For a few minutes she clung to a little branch, but it broke and she slid more than 100 metres further down the mountain slope.

Her friends only realised an hour later that she was missing and began to look for her.

Purely by chance at about 9 pm, they heard her shouting and following her voice to where she lay on a ledge.

She was already ice cold.

Her friend Jenny Steytler said it was grace that led them to her.

They covered her with blankets and jackets, and fed her hot coffee as they sat with her in the dark, telling jokes to keep Greyling awake.

“I thought she wasn’t going to make it. She said when the branch broke she thought she was dead,” said Steytler.

Rob Mac Geoghegan of the Eastern Cape Search and Rescue team said Steytler and her uncle, Willem, and his sons, Lourence and Patrick, and the others who stayed with Greyling were the true heroes of the story.

“She would have died if they hadn’t found her and we hadn’t got her down,” he said.

“She was very lucky, she survived the fall and the cold night.”

Because of the difficult terrain, she had to be winched off the mountain on a litter, because the helicopter could not land.

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