Paul Bevis, NSRI Durban duty coxswain, said:
At 19h38, Tuesday, 5 January, NSRI Durban duty crew were alerted by a volunteer rescue group, Rescue Tech, who had been notified of a group of 5 people seen earlier in the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, inland of Durban, and they were suspected to be missing on one of the Krantzkloof hiking trails.
On investigation it was determined that a male child, aged 2, and 3 teenagers, 2 males and a female, aged 15,16 and 13 and an adult male, aged 37, had reportedly been hiking on one of the demarcated trails. They had not returned as scheduled and they were missing and the alarm was raised.
The SA Police Services and Metro Police Control had been alerted and fears were growing for the safety of the group.
NSRI Durban duty crew were activated and an NSRI Durban swift water rescue team, the SA Police Services, Police Search and Rescue, Metro Police Search and Rescue, a Police K-9 Search and Rescue team, with K-9 officer Ghost and his Police officer handler, Netcare 911 ambulance services, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife rangers and local Waterfall Neighbourhood Watch members responded to join Rescue Tech members on the scene.
The rescue teams comprising of 35 personnel and K-9 officer Ghost commenced a joint search operation that was headed by Police Search and Rescue.
2 search and rescue groups, comprising of 19 members, were dispatched into the valley to begin a search with a support rescue team remaining as back-up at the staging area.
After 2 hours of extensive searching, in conditions hampered by foul weather, moderate rain, difficult terrain and flood conditions, voices were heard indicating the location of the casualties. They were off the trail.
In a combination of shouting and whistling, that was hampered by echoes caused by the surrounding valley, and also with the assistance of torch lights and local knowledge of the trails provided by Rescue Tech, on closer inspection the casualties were located in an area made barely accessible by weather conditions but they were safe.
The casualties were provided warm gear and safety gear and they brought towards a trail by the rescue teams where once safely back on the trail Netcare 911 advanced life support paramedics medically assessed the casualties and the children were found to be in good health and they were not injured. The adult male received some medical treatment for a medical condition and he was stabilised.
They were hiked out of danger to the back-up rescue resources who were standing by to receive them at the staging area.
Once safely at the staging area, by approximately 03h38, all of the casualties were accounted for and they were safe and out of danger.
It appears that they had initiated a hike in clear weather conditions at around 10h00 but we believe that about 2 hours into their hike a severe thunderstorm hampered their progress and they wandered off the trail.
With the rain and rising water levels they appear to have been disorientated on the trail and they wandered off the trail before losing the trail and before nightfall further hampered their efforts to find the trail.
The operation completed at 05h36.
Rescue Tech are commended for swiftly escalating the raising of the alarm and the joint rescue services operation, headed by Police Search and Rescue, to get the casualties to safety, is commended.