100m cliff scramble to save wife
Bride falls to her death posing for photo
A SEA Point husband risked his life to rescue his new bride after a celebratory birthday photograph went horrifically wrong and she fell from Lookout Point, Chapman’s Peak Drive’s highest point.
While celebrating her 31st birthday with family at about 5pm on Sunday, several sources said Jolandi le Roux lost her footing while jumping in the air at the cliff edge of Lookout Point to stage a photograph that would look as if she was leaping over the setting sun.
Imports manager Jolandi and financial director husband Andrew, 33, are alleged to have left the safety of the viewing platform and crossed the metal railing designed to keep the public off a sloping cliff top of loose rocks and slippery gravel that suddenly drops down to a vertical cliff face.
“Once you slip there, there’s nothing to stop you falling.
“If you try to grab the rock it just breaks away,” said one rescuer trying to explain the perils of Lookout Point.
In a tragic twist, it emerged the couple were married on Lookout Beach in Plettenberg Bay in September last year. After Jolandi slipped over the edge a distraught Andrew, an experienced trail runner and triathlete, scrambled 100m down the treacherous 65-degree mountainside of loose rock.
Rescuers said he then managed to traverse the mountainside to within about 9m of where Jolandi’s crumpled body was hanging from a dead tree that was wedged by fallen rocks like a cork in a bottle into the base of a 20m V-shaped gully.
From this position he could not see her because she was tucked around the corner of the perilous, sheer-faced gully that had stopped him in his tracks. Even experienced metro and Mountain Club rescuers could not reach Jolandi from that point, compelling them to establish other rescue platforms above her.
The first metro rescuer on the scene, paramedic Henry Barlow, 47, lowered on to the mountainside from the Skymed helicopter at 5.40pm, was shocked to encounter Andrew.
“It’s one of the most dangerous places in the Peninsula,” said Barlow, who has seen it all in his 28-year career and struggled to find a secure footing before releasing himself from the chopper.
“He risked his life trying to reach his wife but couldn’t. It was heartbreaking but it would have been suicide to go any further.
“It was just cliffs and a 60m drop to the rocks and sea below us.”
Barlow wanted to airlift Andrew off the mountain but he declined, saying he’d find his own way back.
“It wasn’t safe and he looked like he wasn’t all there but I couldn’t force him. I think he was relieved that help had arrived so he could hand over and be by himself,” Barlow said.
Matthew Young, 33, an experienced rock climber and advanced trauma life support doctor, was air-dropped to retrieve Jolandi.
Even for Young the conditions below Lookout are treacherous.
“It is not a nice place to be. The whole mountain is falling apart, literally. It’s ancient crumbling sandstone that breaks off easily. It’s by no means inspiring. Especially in the dark when all you’ve got is a headlamp.”
When Young saw Jolandi’s motionless, contorted form, he knew she could never have survived the battering of her 100m fall.
Young reached her at 9.10pm and “delicately secured her in a harness and attached her to my ropes”.
Lookout metro incident commander Elvin Stoffels, 30, gently broke the news to an emotional Andrew, who had held on to the slim hope that his wife survived.
Despite approaching rain, rescue commanders decided to honour Jolandi’s family request and complete her retrieval instead of postponing until the next day. It took another two hours to get her body back up the mountain to her distraught family, who despite their traumatic seven-hour vigil had ordered pizza and soft drinks for the rescuers. Once Jolandi’s body was in the mortuary van, her father approached the rescuers to thank them.
Andrew and Jolandi le Roux