Gusting winds hamper rescue of foreign hiker in Drakensberg

2015-07-15 13:55

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Durban - Gale-force winds have stalled the aerial rescue of a 30-year-old French national who is trapped on a mountain ledge in the Northern Drakensberg.

Paramedics and rescue technicians used a military helicopter to fly to a remote region of the mountain range early on Wednesday morning after the man became stranded and spent the night on a ledge in the freezing cold.

Original reports were that the hiker had been injured, however it has since emerged that the man, who had been hiking alone, is trapped on a rocky ledge above a 20-metre waterfall.

KZN EMS spokesperson Robert McKenzie said that emergency service personnel first received word of the hiker on Tuesday night, and that an Oryx helicopter from the air force's 15 Squadron had been scrambled to assist at 06:00 on Wednesday.

“Detail surrounding exactly what is wrong with the hiker and why he needs to be rescued are scant at this stage. An EMS paramedic along with members of the Mountain Club are on board the helicopter,” he said.

 “There are strong winds in the mountains and the search team has had difficulty in finding the injured hiker. They have been forced to land nearby,” he said.

SMS for help

Mountain Club of South Africa rescue organiser Steve Cooke said that the man had been walking along the escarpment and had tried to descend to a lower level.

“He attempted to come down via a difficult route and is now stuck above a 20-metre waterfall. He scrambled down some areas which he can’t scramble back up and is trapped,” he said.

“He managed to get out an SMS to a friend in Europe that he was in trouble and they managed to get in touch with the KZN EMS and then they notified us, which is in line with our procedure.”

“The winds have got up to 30 knots and flying is now impossible. Earlier the helicopter was unable to locate the man. They touched down and two rescuers have set out on foot to try and find the man while the aircraft has returned to the Dragon Peaks base to stand by until the wind drops. Hopefully they will be able to fly again this afternoon,” Cooke said.

Read more on:    durban  |  pietermaritzburg  |  search and rescue

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