Rescues – 22 December 2016

At around 20:30 a call came in for a 20 year old female who was overdue in the Newlands Forest area. I (Grant ZS1GS) responded for logistical support and arrived on scene at 21:00. The female and her family were visiting from Gauteng and she had spent the afternoon alone hiking in the area. She was in cellular contact with her mom and had sent her an image of her location but did not arrive back at the expected time. While a search manager was interviewing the mother of the patient, a second call for a male lost on the Houtbay side came through. This meant that the teams that had gathered were split and some sent to Houtbay while some remained at Newlands forest to search for the missing lady.

The Houtbay call was on Kabonkelberg and the patient had comms via cell phone with the incident commander. He was advised to reserve the battery life for when help was closer so that he could be located easier. Phil Van Den Bossche (ZS1VCC) and Jason Codd (ZS1ZW) were deployed as logistic operators to assist with this rescue.

In the meantime 5 teams of around three people each were sent through the forest to locate the missing lady. From the image that was sent to her mother it appeared that she was at the contour path 2 hours before her last contact with her mother. Further information from a trail runner showed that she was higher than expected and a team was rerouted to the area and ultimately found her shaken and injured but still able to walk herself out most of the way home but she was piggy-backed out the last stretch, which happened via Tafelberg Road.  She was  transported back to Newlands Forest where she was reunited with her family.

At around the same time the patient on Kabonkelberg was reached and he too was in a precarious situation and required the assistance of technical rescuers to get him to safety. He was brought down from the mountain and all parties stood down around 05:00.

These two incidents could have turned out with tragic consequences as the weather was becoming worse and during the night some rain was experienced. Thanks to everyone involved.

Rescue 15 December 2016

At around 08:15 a call came through for a patient that had fallen 20-30 meters on Lionshead. Matt Feinstein (ZS1MTF) and Grant Southey (ZS1GS) responded as LZ operators and reported to Kloofnek. Fortunately the parking had not yet filled up and was still suitable for use as a landing zone. Matt secured the LZ with the help of SANPark Rangers.

Skymed flew in and inserted a rescue technician and medic into the field before landing at Kloofnek. The technician and medic took about 20 minuted to secure the patient and treat him on a dangerous slope before calling for Skymed to extract them. The patient and medic were hoisted out and brought to the LZ where the patient was handed over to a commercial ambulance company, whilst Skymed returned to the field to collect the rescue technician.

The rescue went according to plan and no notable issues arose. The patient suffered back and rib injuries but was fortunate in that he did not have a vertical fall but rather slid 20-30meters and was able to grasp at vegetation to slow the fall.

Rescue – Landroskloof – 12 November 2016

Saturday 12 November was the turn of this years 6th group of grade 9 scholars from Somerset College to hike the Landroskloof section of the annual Somerset Trek.  Each year, members of the HH section of the Mountain Club of South Africa accompany the learners on this section of their adventure.  On Saturday, Johann Wiid ZS1JHW, was one of the two rescue team members accompanying the group.

The group departed the MCSA Johnson Hut at around 7am in cool conditions.  About two and a half hours into the hike, one of the learners sustained a knee injury that prevented her from continuing or turning back.  The standard rescue plan was immediately activated by the two rescuers with the group.  Luckily the group was still about 300m below the cloud level and so, after consultation with the EMS rescue manager on duty, the AMS Skymed rescue helicopter was recalled from and air-sea rescue exercise in Melkbosstrand and dispatched to the scene.  Paul ZS1V responded to the WSAR callout sent by Johann ZS1JM, and secured a landing zone for the helicopter near the gates of the Vergelegen farm.

A technical rescuer and a paramedic were hoisted down to the patient.  After consultation between Paul and Skymed, the LZ was moved to the Helderberg Nature Reserve.  This is further away from the scene, but more familiar to the helicopter crew.   

Since the weather was worsening, the remainder of the group of 20 hikers turned around and proceeded back down to the Johnson Hut.  Unfortunately, a second hiker suffered an ankle injury on the way back down.  After the first patient was extracted, the technical rescuer and paramedic were relocated lower down the kloof to prepare the second casualty for extraction.

The second patient, paramedic and technical rescuer were all subsequently extracted to the Helderberg Nature Reserve and a waiting ambulance transported the casualties to hospital.  Standdown at 13.00.

Rescue – Newlands Ravine 13 November 2016

At 18h02 a callout to Newlands Ravine to assist a party of 3 stuck on a ledge was issued. I (Phil – ZS1VCC) was activated at 18h14 for logistics/comms support.

Upon my arrival in Newlands forest at ±19h00, I located Metro1 but all 3 Metro rescue technicians had deployed into the mountain as a hasty team. With permission from the Metro rescuers (obtained via the radio), I proceeded to open and setup Metro 1 and established comms with the team. I was joined by the MCSA field manager a little while later, and soon thereafter by additional MCSA and HN members. The hasty team located the party at 19:43, and by 19h50 had completed their assessment, indicating no injuries and that no additional assistance was required. They proceeded to walk the patients down (which was actually a party of 4, 3 males + 1 female aged 18-19 yrs). The party was met by myself at the entrance to the contour path hiking trail, and transported down to Metro1 with the additional assistance of the Metro bakkie. All teams were logged back in at 21h42 and debriefed. Patients were collected by parent(s).

The rescue was attended by HAMNET, MCSA, HN and SANParks personnel, and additional support was provided by NCC duty members at the forestry station.

Report compiled by Phil Van Den Bossche

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.