Lone hiker falls to his death

The SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service helicopter recovered the hikers body.

Tragedy struck in the Helderberg last week, when a 58-year old lone hiker fell to his death in the Helderberg Nature Reserve.

The hiker, whose name has not yet been released, set off on a solo hike on Thursday apparently to do the Sugarbird route, in the lower part of the reserve.

When he had not returned by 4pm as he had indicated to his wife he would do, she contacted reserve management to report him as being overdue.

Reserve management immediately contacted Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) for assistance.

WSAR media liaison, Johann Marais, takes up the story.

“Around 5pm on Thursday August 27, the manager of the Helderberg Nature Reserve called WSAR, requesting assistance after the wife of a 58-year old male person had reported him overdue.

“The man had set out to hike the Sugarbird Route and not returned by 4pm as he had arranged with his wife.

“By then, rangers had already patrolled the route. WSAR had more than 17 operatives in the field on foot, and where possible, in 4x4s, searching for this person into the small hours of the night.”

The WSAR team was accompanied by 16 reserve staff members who responded to the call for assistance, and the search continued until about 1.30am on Friday morning, when the search teams stood down.

The search resumed at 8am on Friday, and the man’s body was eventually found near Porcupine Ridge, high up on the mountain, close to the Saddle, on a popular route which leads up to West Peak.

“We are sad to report that the body of a man has been found.

“He was fatally injured when he fell somewhere off the path. His family have been given the sad news. We share their grief.

“The deceased is from the Helderberg area. The body is being packaged and we will wait for the weather to clear to bring the body off the mountain,” Mr Marais said in a media statement at noon on Friday.

With the extreme weather conditions forecast for the area, it was unclear as to when an airlift would be feasible, but thankfully, a brief weather window opened up on Saturday.

“Shortly after 3pm on Saturday August 29, our air wing Air Mercy Service helicopter, contracted to the provincial Department of Health, was successful in hoisting out the body of the deceased patient from where he had fallen.

“The body has been handed to the SAPS forensic department, which now has to complete its investigation and report.

“We are not in a position to give out any further information as the unnatural death is being investigated by the police.

“We thank our teams for bringing closure to the family using a brief lift in the rain and low cloud,” Mr Marais said in a statement at 3.40pm on Saturday.