Tragic end to dramatic rescue

2011-09-14 08:17

Johannesburg - A tense, drawn-out and complicated rescue operation on a rocky hill outside Brits in the North West ended tragically on Tuesday night when a man who had apparently been trapped in a very narrow crevice for six days, gave up the fight.

"There is no pulse, no breathing,” said Jonathan Theron, a paramedic chaplain from the South African Emergency Services Institute (Saesi) to rescue workers and community members at about 18:20 on Tuesday, after a rescue operation of about nine hours.

In order to free the man, who was known only as Abel, from the rocks on the hill in the Oukasie township outside Brits, rescue workers from the Hartbeespoort emergency rescue unit, the Madibeng fire department and scores of community members basically had to break up parts of the hill, rock by rock.

In pain

Theron had been on the scene since 09:30 on Tuesday morning and kept talking to Abel to encourage him and give him water.

Abel was confused but awake for most of the day. He often said he was in pain.

Many rocks, some of which were estimated to weigh more than a ton, had to be pushed and hauled away one by one with sticks, jacks and ropes while Abel’s health and safety continued to be a concern.

All day long, the calls of rescue workers could be heard as they shouted: “Hang on…just wait…OK…One, two, three…pull!” from the narrow crevice.

Every now and then someone would try to comfort Abel with some encouraging words like “Hang in there, Abel!” and “Stay awake, Abel!”.

At about 15:30, rescue workers could no longer stay in the crevice with Abel due to the danger of a rock fall after moving so many rocks.

After a lengthy struggle and just when it looked like there might be enough room to free Abel, Theron went down again into the crevice to get an update on his condition. He returned with the news of Abel’s death.

“It is one of those things, we did the best we could,” Theron told reporters.

Of the hundreds of community members who had gathered at the scene, no one had known Abel.

He had told rescue workers that he had climbed to the top of the hill on Wednesday afternoon to pray and had climbed into the cave-like crevice for privacy. For some reason he couldn’t get out again and was trapped for six days without food and water.


Philip Mashura called for help on Tuesday morning when he realised that someone was trapped.

He had gone to pray on the same hill on Friday. “The Spirit called me on Sunday and Monday to return to the hill.”

“[On Monday] I heard a voice from somewhere inside the rocks,” said Mashura.

“I told the people about it, but they said it must have been some creature. I returned nevertheless [on Tuesday morning] and realised someone was trapped there, so I called the police.”

By late on Tuesday evening attempts to remove Abel’s body were abandoned due to bad weather.

  • Cindy2810 - 2011-09-14 08:29

    how very sad :( RIP Abel

      werner.smidt - 2011-09-14 09:01

      Horrible way to go.

  • Gadafi007 - 2011-09-14 08:33

    RIP ,But who goes into a dark cave without a torch or some lamp ?don't believe everything people say .some bath in mountain pools /rivers and never return .

      Grommels - 2011-09-14 14:52

      Oh shut up.

  • taxpayer1 - 2011-09-14 08:34

    it's very sad

  • Fedup - 2011-09-14 08:35

    This is very tragic, RIP Abel, and well done to everyone for their efforts

  • Susannomore - 2011-09-14 08:48

    This is so sad. What an ordeal. Well done to all who tried to save him. Condolenses to Abel's family and friends

  • NZdreamer - 2011-09-14 08:49

    So close, but too late....this is just awful, condolences to his family.

  • Bok Fan - 2011-09-14 08:49

    Apart from the sorrowful ending this is what South Africa should be. People of goodwill, determination, courage and hope working hard together towards a worthwhile purpose. RIP Abel

      Lee-ann - 2011-09-14 09:28

      your words are so inspiring i could not agree more with you.this is such an emotional story.can you imagine what a better place our country would be if we just stood together and united.

      draaft - 2011-09-14 10:01

      Yes, I wish the heartless taxi drivers would read this and be humbled...

      GypseyAnn - 2011-09-14 10:22

      Agreed - there should be more people who care ... :)

      realvictim - 2011-09-14 11:18

      So true, i just wish some racist roa ragers could see this and leave taxi drivers alone.

      emile.eley - 2011-09-14 15:54

      AT LAST! Good on you mate!

  • GypseyAnn - 2011-09-14 08:49

    RIP Abel - sad ending :( - condolences to the remaining loved ones.

  • lisa777 - 2011-09-14 08:49

    and now they left his body there? At least he's in nature I guess...

      Taboo - 2011-09-14 09:19

      Dumb comment.

      Ettienne - 2011-09-14 10:43

      Read the comment properly. They did not say the body will be left there, but due to bad weather conditions they could not continue. So logic says that as soon as the weather is favorable, they will continue.

      emile.eley - 2011-09-14 15:57

      What goes around comes around. Remember your hubris when your time to grieve comes.

  • Lee - 2011-09-14 08:50

    That's a sad but wonderful story and at least he knew there were all those generous people trying to help him - the human spirit lives on.

  • scott - 2011-09-14 08:54

    Surely god knew he was there if he was "talking " to him and would have lifted him out??

      Kenko - 2011-09-14 10:28

      scott, shut up. This is not the time nor the place for that.

      kristoe - 2011-09-14 10:28

      Scott - I'll pray for you

      Yomar Sapus - 2011-09-14 11:47

      scott you tw*t, This article has scott nothing to do with you!

      Slartibartfast - 2011-09-14 11:56

      D O F F - D 0 0 S - S C O T T .... synonymns?

      Alpha - 2011-09-14 12:31

      Who knows: Maybe he ask to be shown some kindness from other people and to be free from idiots like you... I believe he is in a better place now.

      Tolerant - 2011-09-14 13:06

      He was needed in heaven. RIP.

      Point Blank - 2011-09-14 14:43

      Look scott, being an atheist (as I am), or "anti-god" doesn't give you the right to make retarded comments like that at a time like this, grow up.

      emile.eley - 2011-09-14 15:57

      Ag shut it already.

  • Android - 2011-09-14 08:55

    What is sad is that the irrational belief in the possibility of "some creature" speaking from inside the crevice caused rescue attempts to start a day later than they could have.

      Flee - 2011-09-14 09:46

      Totally agree when you see someone stuck in a situation where they are injured and unable to move you dont wait til the next day to report it... Had this idiot reported the incident on Monday Abel might still have been here. Infuriating..... My Condolences to the family and may Abel est in peace...

  • nn.prv - 2011-09-14 09:00

    RIP Abel..

  • surita.coetzer - 2011-09-14 09:05

    How very sad. My he rest in peace!

  • Peeved - 2011-09-14 09:14

    Iesh! :(

  • 2shy2call - 2011-09-14 09:19

    How can the authorities live someone who is trapped in the rocks. And say lets because of the bad weather. There could have been efforts to rescue him even if there was a bad weather. Nxaaaa

      B - 2011-09-14 09:32

      Because when a person is alive. You deal with the danger as much as you can to make it safe and to try and rescue him/her alive. But if there is no need to due to a patient dying, then there is no reason to place the lives of the rescuers also into danger. Fall back and do it later when it is safe.

      Tolerant - 2011-09-14 13:07

      2 dead people is worse than 1.

  • lynx - 2011-09-14 09:21

    RIP. My sympathies for those left behind.

  • BIBI - 2011-09-14 09:43

    OMG this is so sad... *teary eyes*... RIP Abel and to all rescue workers and community members, you have tried.

  • chantal de pierres - 2011-09-14 09:59

    Thank you to all the caring South Africans. So sad that they were not successful.

  • Charlie - 2011-09-14 10:17

    It says in the article that out of all the bystanders no body knew him. At least he did not pass away alone, he was surrounded by caring people. The Lord had a plan. RIP Abel!

  • Tshepo - 2011-09-14 10:21

    Indeed sad story, Rest in Peace Abel. Tshepo Rasekgothoma

  • Nicholas - 2011-09-14 10:21

    Only Incredible Hulk was able to untrapped himself from piles of rock, so, to avoid danger, stop playing in the danger zone, with an attitude that you are an adult.

      Charlie - 2011-09-14 10:54

      Dim Wit!

      Slartibartfast - 2011-09-14 11:59

      D O F -- D 0 0 S -- NICHOLAS .... Hmmmmmm will have to find some new synonymns it seems Scott and Nicholas?

      Point Blank - 2011-09-14 14:44

      Wow, the retards are out in force today.

  • Dumba1234 - 2011-09-14 11:08

    It's so sad for the guy but sad that these people still have the mentallity that some creature clled them into the cave etc Eish man

      emile.eley - 2011-09-14 15:59

      Who exactly are "these" people pal?

  • Dumba1234 - 2011-09-14 11:09

    Gadafi007 - Yes because they don't know how to swim, only now do you see blacks in the water literally. Majority of them still can't swim though

      realvictim - 2011-09-14 11:22

      You wont belive this, but i live near a trailer park where all of the low lifes cant swim, and they all speak afrikaans and pale in complexion.

      jen - 2011-09-14 11:34

      Swimming and a mountain rescue - how the hell did you two manage to connect the two. Dumb, dumber and...

  • jen - 2011-09-14 11:10

    RIP Abel. This whole exercise should be a model for the government to build the future of SA on. It started with one man. Well done to all concerned.

  • Clayton - 2011-09-14 11:35

    shame, climbed in the hole to get more privacy? because the mountain top was over crowded, presumably with spirits...

      jen - 2011-09-14 12:14

      You are one hell of an a-hole.

      Point Blank - 2011-09-14 14:45

      Aaaand Clayton went full retard.

      Fedup - 2011-09-14 16:16

      Clayton - why the hatred in all of your comments, like I have said before ... not necessary

  • Gina - 2011-09-14 12:08

    God be with him and his family at this tragic time.

  • talitha.marx - 2011-09-14 13:28

    I was touched reading this story - its encouraging that a community stands together with words of support for a person they dont even know Big Up Peeps!

  • Wizard jr - 2011-09-14 14:37

    R.I.P Well done to all involve in the rescue attempt.

  • ruda.sealie - 2011-09-14 15:30

    That is soooo sad. Shame.

  • frankm - 2011-09-14 16:53

    RIP Abel

  • Doug - 2011-09-14 18:39

    Condolences to the family.

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