WSAR Comms & Nav exercise & Unresponsive Patient Rescue

On the 15 Oct 2016 members of the various WSAR affiliated groups attended a communication and navigation training exercise in the Helderberg region (Somerset West). This exercise was arranged and managed by Delta Search & Rescue in association with EMS (Winelands).

The exercise was controlled from the Metro 4 incident command vehicle (bus), and manned by Delta Search & Rescue, EMS personnel as well as by Matt (ZS1MTF) & Phil (ZS1VCC). Ground teams comprised 4×4 operators and on-foot rescuers (incl. K9s). Basic instructions and maps were provided to the ground teams at a briefing, but each team was purposefully not given a full set of instructions for their tasks. This necessitated each team to check in with Control and to be given precise instructions and coordinates for selected tasks over the radio network. This was to simulate a real search & rescue with multiple field teams over a wide area, and to assess the effectiveness of communications and the passing of critical messages in this environment.

During the later stages of the training exercise, Metro 4 received a real rescue callout (in the Helderberg region) from Metro Control. An elderly patient, whom was hiking with a group, was unresponsive and assistance was requested. All teams on training were asked to standby while the incident commander and his team assessed the situation and set in motion the rescue procedure. Some of the nearby training teams were asked to respond whist an ILS medic and Skymed was dispatched. The patient was assessed by the ILS medic and his status was unfortunately “blue” (suspected heart attack). Skymed 1 was used to extract the patient and transported him to an landing zone near Metro 4 (in the Helderberg Nature Reserve). The various necessary services were dispatched to receive the patient upon Skymed’s arrival. A few members of the WSAR training exercise, which had assisted in the rescue, were tasked with accompanying the remainder of the hiking group off the mountain and down to Metro 4.


The training exercise was concluded shortly after the rescue, and it was considered a successful event. Many salient points were raised and much was learned from the exercise. The exercise was saddened by the unfortunate outcome of the rescue; especially as it happened in such close proximity to the training event, and that there was little our teams could do to change the outcome.

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Rescue 30 August 2016. Camps Bay side of Table Mountain

At 19h39 a call came through for three people lost on Camps Bay side of TM. Matt (ZS1MTF), confirmed availability with the logistics duty manager and was told to RV with Metro 1 and Johan (ZU1JV) at Theresa Ave in camps Bay.

Light was fading as we arrived on scene, contact was made with the party lost on the mountain and it was confirmed that they were well equipped and were comfortable to wait for the WSAR teams to reach them.

While discussing on the ground, a few ideas were came about on how to reach them – one was to take the cable car up and hike down to the party but this was later deemed an unsuitable option as it would have taken too long for the teams to reach the party of three in time. The decision was made to transport the teams up the Pipe Track to the start of the trail and from there to hike up towards the lost party and then up to the MCSA hut on the back table for extraction.

When the teams reached the party of three it was established that they had been on the mountain from 9am that morning and were exhausted – hence them taking extremely long to reach the hut. Three teams consisting of 14 WSAR members were sent into the field.

There were no communication issues while we were at Theresa Ave, we tried to use EMS 12 on the cable station but that seems to be down at the moment, this would have been particularly useful when we had to relocate to the back table and establish communications with the teams on their way up to us.

The first team reached the hut at around 4h05 31st Aug, everyone was down at Constantia Circle at around 5h25 and a quick debrief took place. Visibility at this point was anything from 5 to 10m. Johan left straight from there and I proceeded to take 2 MCSA members back to the Pipe track to fetch their vehicles.

Rescue 28 August 2016

At 19h36 a standby for possible callout to Muizenberg Peak was issued (no further details given). Don (ZS1DON) & Phil (ZS1VCC) confirmed availability and were activated at 19h50.

Don (HAMNET) and SANParks arrived first at the Pecks Valley pathway at around 19h10, followed shortly thereafter by Phil (HAMNET). Information we obtained from Metro Base was that they had received call(s) from resident(s) along Boyes Drive, saying they heard person(s) calling for help and seeing a flashing light on the mountain. Whilst awaiting Metro 1, we scanned the mountainside looking for any signs of a flashing light and listened for any shouting but nothing was seen or heard at Pecks Valley. Phil drove further west along Boyes Drive to search the mountainside closer to Lakeside, and in doing so, found Metro 1 and MCSA several hundred meters from the Pecks Valley (between Pecks Valley and the main path up to Muizenberg Peak). Phil informed Don and the HAMNET/SANParks team was relocated to Metro 1’s location.

It was decided that a two-man MCSA hasty team would go up and assess the situation whilst awaiting additional responders. The hasty team (Team 1) departed at 21h00 and arrived with the patients at 21h38. Two youngsters, both males aged 16 & 17, were located uninjured, but were cold and tired. At the time they were located 4 additional MCSA members had arrived at Metro 1 (Team 2). A decision was taken to walk the patients up towards the aerials on the top of Muizenberg Peak and collect them with a vehicle. This was considered a safer option. Don, together with Team 2 and SANParks rangers, accessed the aerials via the jeep track from Silvermine Gate 2. Once at the aerials, Team 2 hiked to assist Team 1.

Team 1 with the patients arrived at Don’s vehicle at 22h36 and made their way down to Metro 1, followed by Team 2 driven by SANParks. Team 1 (with the patients) arrived at Metro 1 at 23h03, followed at 23:15 by SANParks and Team 2. The patients were transported to Muizenberg Police station by SAPS members, to be reunited with their awaiting families.

At 23:20 all rescue personnel were debriefed. The rescue was well attended by MCSA (7members) and supported by 2 x HAMNET, 2 x SANParks and 2 x SAPS members.