100m cliff scram­ble to save wife

Bride falls to her death pos­ing for photo

The Independent on Saturday - - METRO - MIKE BEHR

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

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