Hus­band risks all in dar­ing res­cue bid

‘Look­out Point one of the most dan­ger­ous places in the Penin­sula’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - 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 around 5pm last Sun­day, sev­eral sources say 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 pro­tec­tive bar­rier de­signed to keep the pub­lic off a slop­ing cliff top of loose rocks and slip­pery gravel that sud­denly drops to a ver­ti­cal cliff face.

In a tragic irony, it emerged that 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, found a way to scram­ble 100m down the treach­er­ous 65-de­gree moun­tain­side of loose rock.

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 un­clip­ping 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 that he could hand over and be by him­self.”

By now, more res­cuers had been air­dropped on to the moun­tain, in­clud­ing Matthew Young, 33, a rock climber and ad­vanced trauma life sup­port doc­tor, who had been as­signed to re­trieve Jolandi.

As­sist­ing him with var­i­ous rope an­chor points were fel­low Wilder­ness Search and Res­cue (WSAR) vol­un­teers Steve Hofmeyr, David Nel, Christo Lot­ter and Ni­cholas le Maitre. Above them at Look­out Point, around 20 other metro and WSAR res­cuers manned their sup­port sta­tions.

Even for ex­pe­ri­enced Moun­tain Club rock climbers like Young, who has been at it for 16 years, 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.”

Young’s first at­tempt to ab­seil down the one sheer cliff of the gully to Jolandi lasted 5m. “Rocks were fall­ing all around me. One of them was as big as a car en­gine. So we de­cided to swing me across to the other cliff­side.”

By now Young had slowed down as he had seen enough of Jolandi’s mo­tion­less, con­torted form to know that she could never have sur­vived the bat­ter­ing of her 100m fall.

With res­cuers’ safety para­mount, he moved with de­lib­er­a­tion. “I was hang­ing in free air, slowly inch­ing my way down to Jolandi, care­ful not to dis­lodge any rock that would dis­lodge her body.”

Young reached her at 9.10pm and “del­i­cately se­cured her in a har­ness and at­tached her to my ropes”. Up at Look­out, Metro 1 in­ci­dent com­man­der Elvin Stof­fels, 30, tasked with both com­pli­cated res­cue man­age­ment and reg­u­larly up­dat­ing fam­ily, gen­tly broke the news to an emo­tional An­drew, who had held on to the slim hope that his wife had sur­vived.

Hofmeyr then low­ered Young and Jolandi out of the gully. Dan­gling 20 storeys above the surf crash­ing on to the rocks below, the pair were then slowly hauled across by Nel and Le Maitre to their an­chor point, where Jolandi was care­fully se­cured in a body bag and stretcher.

By then it was 10.30pm. 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 res­cuers.

Once Jolandi’s body had been placed in the mor­tu­ary van, her fa­ther ap­proached the res­cuers to thank them as it be­gan to rain.

“I thought that was very brave of him, con­sid­er­ing the com­plete night­mare they were go­ing through,” said Stof­fels. “It made the long night worth­while be­cause it’s not ev­ery day that we get a thank-you like that.”

JOLANDI le Roux and hus­band An­drew.

MATTHEW YOUNG AND AIR MERCY SER­VICE

FOL­LOW­ING a com­plex four-hour re­trieval from a per­ilous gully (red lines), WSAR res­cuers (below) took two hours to bring Jolandi’s stretchered body back to her fam­ily. In emer­gen­cies, con­tact WSAR (021) 937 0300.|

THE red cir­cle on the left shows where res­cuers found An­drew le Roux and the cir­cle on the right shows where they found his wife’s body.

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