The Western Cape Department of Health EMS/AMS rescue helicopter was dispatched from Oudtshoorn to the Crags to assist in the search and rescue of a 29-year-old Belgian tourist.
PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Police have launched an inquest into the drowning of a 29-year-old Belgian tourist who was swept down a river during a kloofing expedition outside Plettenberg Bay on Thursday, March 26.
The man was part of a group of six men who went on a kloofing or canyoning adventure along the Salt River near The Crags that afternoon. Kloofing involves the descent down a deep ravine or watercourse by either hiking or abseiling.
Due to a sudden cloudburst the group, including two guides and four tourists, were caught in a flash flood.
The expedition, which was undertaken by two groups, was organised by local adventure company Africanyon. Founder Rogan Hindmarch said as a result of the unexpected downpour, a director of the company had immediately inspected the river and noticed that water levels were rapidly rising.
“He contacted the guides leading two groups to instruct them to exit the river. At this stage the guides had already noticed the changing river conditions and the potential danger it posed. The guides leading the first group had taken the decision to exit the river and abort the trip at the nearest escape route. They are to be commended for their actions which undoubtedly saved several lives, as this group of 10 people exited the kloof without injury,” Hindmarch said.
The second group was however behind them and was in the process of conducting an abseil.
“Restricted by the vertical canyon walls, with no nearby escape route and unable to return upstream or to climb to safety, the guides were forced to continue downstream with this group to the next available escape route. It was while proceeding, that this group was hit by the flash flood.”
Hindmarch said during this time, another company director had calculated where the second group would be and descended the nearest exit route downstream of their position, taking rescue equipment with him.
“Through massive effort and at considerable risk, three Belgian clients and two guides were extracted from the river and brought to safety. Tragically the fourth client was pulled under the floodwater, despite wearing a life jacket, and was swept away.”
Plettenberg Bay NSRI volunteers were dispatched to the area, about 12km upstream from the river mouth. SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS) spokesman Venessa Horn said the Western Cape Department of Health EMS/AMS rescue helicopter was dispatched from Oudtshoorn to the Crags to assist in search and rescue operations.
Local members of the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) also assisted by searching the mountainous area, while NSRI volunteers searched along the river.
During the search the man was spotted downstream. “A NSRI rescue swimmer and a mountain rescue member were deployed from the helicopter to the site where the body of the man was recovered and the man was confirmed to be deceased. The body was handed over to the police and their forensic pathology team and an inquest docket has been opened,” Lambinon said.
The group members as well as the guides received counselling. The Belgian Embassy is making the necessary arrangements for the family.
“The aftermath has been shattering for all of those involved. With heavy hearts we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the young Belgian man who lost his life in this tragedy,” Hindmarch said.
“We are deeply saddened by Thursday's tragic accident and extend condolences to the family and friends of the deceased,” Plett Tourism chairman Peter Wallington said.
The Belgium Consulate will be assisting the deceased man’s family abroad.