Are Falls too unsafe to use?

2019-01-31 11:30
Karkloof Falls

Karkloof Falls

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While some locals have voiced anger about the indefinite closure of the popular Woodhouse Falls, those involved in the accidents have welcomed the closure and feel more safety measures should be taken by Sappi around the Falls.

In early October, young Howick couple Mar-Louise (29) and Andre Pretorius (31) fell around 35 metres from the Woodhouse Falls.

The fall saw the couple spend several days in ICU with Andre only being discharged from hospital in late November last year.

Andre sustained serious head injuries as well as injuries to his lungs and ankle.

Also read: Falls off limits

Mar-Louise suffered a fractured skull and broken collarbone and multiple bruises and cuts to her face.

Now, almost four months after the fall, Mar-Louise told The Witness on Wednesday that her condition and Andre’s is improving daily and optimistically says “there is a silver lining to everything”.

“We don’t really remember much about the fall and we don’t want to. It has been a lot to process but we are positive and we have been so blessed with all the help we have received over the last few months,” said Mar-Louise.

She said she had some tissue removed from her face and had an eye operation and although she is “still getting used to seeing my face, I can still see”, she said.

“Our son turned four last week and we are just happy we could be there for him and celebrate with him. Someone has paid his school fees in full for the entire year but it was an anonymous donation,” she added.

Mar-Louise said to say thank you to the many people who helped them was “not enough but it is all I can do right now”.

She admits that it has been a tough few months and said Andre still faces the prospect of a lot more rehabilitation following his fall, but he is doing well.

“He is walking without any help, has just stopped his pain meds and we just hope that his brain function is at 100%,” she said.

She adds she was “surprised” recently when he had changed a light bulb in the house.

“ From being told that my husband was in a vegetative state in October to him changing light bulbs when I can’t, makes me so proud. He is still my handy man,” she says.

Karkloof Falls

LEFT: Howick couple Mar-Louise and Andre Pretorius with their now four-year-old son Liam just before the accident at the Woodhouse Falls occurred. RIGHT: Andre and Mar-Louise Pretorius three months after their fall. (PHOTOS: Andre Pretorius/mar-louise pretorius)

Mar-Louise said their story feels like a miracle and that they are positive things will go back to normal soon with some hard work.

“When you find true love, you stick with it, no matter what and that is what we have done.”

She said she would not be visiting the Falls again following the accident.

“I know people are angry about the Falls being closed but for us, we were a couple going there for the first time. Kids were running around and playing in the water and people were saying ‘lets go watch the kids jump from the falls’. It all seemed safe.

“There was a couple with two children sitting right at the edge of the falls in front of us. We were behind them. It still does not make sense how it all happened but it did and by the grace of God, we are okay.”

Mar-Louise said she feels Sappi should permanently close off the top of the waterfall to the public, especially the rocks near the ledge.

Two months after Mar-Louise and Andre plunged over the falls, 14-year-old Alex Grobler from Hillcrest also fell over the ledge at Woodhouse Falls and was seriously hurt.

His mother Kelly Grobler said her son, who attends Roseway Waldorf School in Assagay, was at the Falls for a friend’s birthday party on December 12 when the accident happened. She believes something must be done to improve safety at the Falls.

She said Alex broke a bone around his eye socket, suffered a small bleed on the brain, a broken ankle and had various stitches on his head.

Kelly said her son has fully recovered from the incident and has just started participating in sport at school.

“He was walking along [the rocks], quite a few children had walked where he had just walked, he slipped and fell,” said Kelly.

“I don’t believe that he was being careless. My understanding, as I was not there, is that there was moss on the rocks that was very slippery and this caused the fall. Apparently the moss gets worse in summer.”

Kelly said while the area is a beautiful place for people to enjoy, she believes “something needs to be done to make it safer”.

“It’s lovely that Sappi have made it available to the public, but I do believe a railing and a warning sign would go a long way. There would probably need to be a rope railing,” she said.

A few days after Alex Grobler’s fall, another Durban boy, Kamdyn Hill (13), was walking away from the edge of the falls when he slipped on a rock and was carried over the waterfall ledge by a strong current of water.

Kamdyn’s mother, Michele Hill-Clack, said her son had a miraculous recovery.

“He is very lucky considering what could have happened,” a relieved Hill-Clack told The Witness this week.

“We are still watching for any sign of concussion as the skin on his head came off the skull during the fall, but other than that, he did not have a single broken bone, or any stitches.

“He was released from hospital the same day he was admitted. I think the experience made him appreciate how quickly things can change,” she said.

Karkloof Falls

LEFT: Durban boy Kamdyn Hill (13) in hospital after he fell over the edge of Woodhouse Falls in mid-December last year. RIGHT: Kamdyn a month after he fell over the edge of Woodhouse Falls. (PHOTOS: Michele cCack) 

Kamdyn’s father Collin Hill had told The Witness at the time of the incident that his son “wasn’t actually walking at the edge of the falls, he was walking away from the falls in the shallow water”.

Hill said that because the rocks have green algae, it becomes very slippery when wet.

Reacting to news of the closure of the Woodhouse Falls, Howick local Joshua Strydom said while he understands the reasons behind it, people who go there should be aware of the dangers.

“People should be aware that it is dangerous and if they want to take the risk and swim there, they should be allowed to,” he said.

He said changes could be made like putting up more warning signs, having demarcated areas for swimming and deciding where people are allowed to go but “closing it off to everyone would be a shame”.

Pietermaritzburg resident Tannith Donaldson said she had learned of the closure recently.

She said she felt it was an inconvenience for people in the area as this is a popular free spot for locals to enjoy.

“Midmar Dam charges entry fees and the Falls didn’t. I don’t think they should have had to close the Falls due to another person’s negligence. They do have signs up. The signs could be made bigger and put in more prominent places where they will be visible to all,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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