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NSRI halts Eastern Cape training exercise to successfully rescue an injured adult female hiker from the Tsitsikamma Otter trail.

On Saturday, 22nd April, at 14h14, during an NSRI Eastern Cape training exercise at the Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma, involving NSRI Oyster Bay, NSRI Eerste River, NSRI Storms River, NSRI Gariep, NSRI St Francis Bay and NSRI Jeffreys Bay, Tsitsikamma National Parks and our NSRI team were alerted to an adult female hiker, from Johannesburg, who was seriously injured on the Otter Trail close to the shoreline.

The hiker's party remained with her initially but eventually had to leave her alone as they raced against developing fog conditions to reach their next camp.

Upon receiving the information, NSRI immediately suspended the training exercise and dispatched 4 NSRI rescue craft - JLT Rescuer, Spirit of Tsitsikamma, Rescue 36 Alpha and Rescue 37 Alpha.

A landing zone was established at the Storms River Mouth campsite
A landing zone was established at the Storms River Mouth campsite. VISUALS: Michael van den Bergh

It was determined that the injured female was located approximately 14 km from the Storms River Mouth, in a Westerly direction, and close to the shoreline.

On NSRI rescue craft arriving on the scene rough seas with 4 to 5 meter swells made it impossible to deploy rescue swimmers from the sea side to reach the patient due to the rough sea conditions.

Meanwhile an SA National Parks off-road vehicle, crewed by Tsitsikamma National Park rangers, who are also NSRI crew and crewed by additional NSRI rescue personnel (all part of the earlier rescue training exercise), had been dispatched from the land side to assist with the rescue.

The land-side rescue team reached the nearest access point and hiked 4 km across challenging terrain, navigating barely accessible terrain, slippery conditions, steep inclines and developing fog, to reach the injured female. They reached the patient in an hour and are commended for their efforts.

During this time, NSRI commanders had remained in contact with patient, via cell phone, providing reassurance to her as the rescue crew approached her location. Foggy conditions further complicated the rescue effort.

A group of public members, other hikers on the trail, had by that stage reached her location during their hike, and they are commended for their assistance.

Upon NSRI crew and Tsitsikamma Park rangers reaching the injured hiker, NSRI rescue crew members found her in good spirits despite her serious condition and medically stabilised her injuries.

VISUALS: Michael van den Bergh

Western Cape Government Health EMS Metro Control activated the EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter, while Private Care Ambulance Services dispatched an ambulance to stand by at the Storms River Mouth campsite.

On the rescue helicopter arriving on the scene rescue paramedics were winch-hoisted close to the scene, where they then continued to provide medical treatment and further stabilise the patient.

A landing zone was established at the Storms River Mouth campsite.

On the patient being stabilised and secured into a Stokes basket stretcher the helicopter returned to the scene to airlift the patient and she was transported by air to the campsite.

The injured female was then transferred into the waiting ambulance and transported to the hospital in a serious but stable condition, in the care of paramedics.

NSRI believe that the hiker is recovering well in hospital.

NSRI commend all parties involved for their swift and coordinated response during this challenging rescue operation.

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