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Twelve people rescued from Kaaimans River

On 03 January 2019 a hiking party of twelve people, including 5 children, set off on a canyoning trip down the Kaaimans river, near Wilderness, departing at about 15h45. The group may have underestimated the difficult terrain and rapids which had been exacerbated by high water levels as a result of the previous day’s rain as well as the distance of the route.

Early on in the trip, one of the group was able make telephonic contact with a relative to inform them that they would be taking longer than expected.

A second call to the same relative after 18h15 was disconnected due to limited cell phone reception in the gorge.

Unable to make further contact with the group and uncertain of their well-being the relative alerted emergency services.

WC Government Health EMS rescue services contacted an NSRI Wilderness rescue swimmer who is also a commercial canyoning adventure tour operator on the Kaaiman’s River.

A team of NSRI Station 23 Wilderness crew, all swift water rescue qualified, was assembled at the Map of Africa view point.

EMS rescue and George Fire ad Rescue services also responded.

Three different sectors of the river were searched.

The hiking group had split, and 3 members had gone ahead down river to seek help, leaving the remaining 5 children (ages 3, 6, 7, 8, 8) and 4 adults to continue at a slower pace.

Rescue crews located the advance group at approximately 20h00 – they confirmed that the remaining 9 were still on the river and they were able to provide an estimate of their location.

Two NSRI rescue teams that had searched different sectors then joined to form a single search party. The search party consisting of 5 rescuers, proceeded down the gorge and searched up river towards the casualty group. Once the casualties were located. No one was injured, but they were exhausted, cold, and the children were distressed.

NSRI assisted the party to swim along a section of the river and assisted them to reach a point from where they could proceed down the rocks and along the river bank, using headlamps to light the way, and carrying the children.

At this point, a team of 3 volunteers from Outeniqua Trail Running Search & Rescue team had made their way from near the river mouth and they reached the rescue group. Additional space blankets were used to help warm the casualties and the group proceeded to hike down the canyon until reaching the emergency vehicles.

After medical assessment by NSRI and George Fire Department medics, the casualties were transported back to the Map of Africa and reunited with their families.


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