Large party of lost hikers rescued in the Drakensberg

New geo-location technology locates desperate group

Wednesday, April 24 2019

Thanks to the guidance of a quick-thinking consultant at the Netcare 911 national emergency operations centre (EOC) and new cutting edge geo-location technology — a group of 20 lost hikers, one of whom was injured, was successfully located and rescued in the Cathedral Peak area of the Drakensberg recently.

“Netcare 911 EOC consultant, Angela Roughley, took a call via our 082 911 emergency line at 21:30 on Saturday, 23 March 2019, from the group, who had been hiking from the Cathedral Peak Hotel in the Drakensberg Mountains, and became thoroughly lost,” says FG Kloppers, who heads up the Netcare 911 EOC.

“The hikers reported that they were freezing cold, and had absolutely no idea where they were, nor what to do. They also could not identify any nearby landmarks, as it was dark and misty,” adds Kloppers.

Pic: Netcare 911 consultant, Angela Roughley, of the Netcare 911 national emergency operations centre, where new geo-locating technology assisted in determining the location of a party of 20 lost hikers in the Drakensberg recently.

“As can be heard on the EOC recording of that first call, Angela provided outstanding support to the group. She immediately set about calming the group, who were clearly distressed, and reported that at least one of the party had been injured. They had also, up until that point, been unsuccessful in contacting anyone who could help them.”

Roughley also quickly went about making good use of newly installed Netcare 911 EOC geo-locating technology to assist in determining the location of the lost party of hikers. This new technology, which has been developed in-house by Netcare 911 over a number of years, enables the team to transmit an SMS text message to a caller’s mobile phone with a link, and then uses their location services to provide exact GPS coordinates.

“We have just recently placed this new geo-locating technology into service and it was the first time that we have used it to assist with a mountain rescue. The law stipulates that one cannot geo-locate an individual without their permission, so Angela first obtained consent from the calmest member of the party and was able to send the necessary SMS to them,” explains Kloppers.

“Once the recipient opened the link, our emergency dispatch system was populated with the group’s location details and coordinates, and we were able to pinpoint their exact position. The system worked perfectly and we were easily able to provide the coordinates, as well as a screenshot of their map location, to the local mountain rescue team.

“A rescue team from Ezimvelo KZN Wildlife ground rescue team was consequently able to reach the group at around 02:00 the next morning, whereafter all of the hikers were brought to safety.

“The support that Angela provided to the hikers was nothing short of outstanding. While not specifically trained in mountain rescue, she was nevertheless able to quickly offer the stranded group invaluable and appropriate advice.”

Roughley, who has been an EOC telephone consultant for a year, says that “it was all just a part of a day’s work” for her. She adds, however, that she was glad to have been the one to take the call, noting, “It was wonderful to have been able to meaningfully assist what was plainly a very frightened group of lost people, as well as play a part in their safe rescue”.

Shalen Ramduth, Netcare 911’s director of business development and support services, congratulated the EOC team on facilitating the rescue of the 20 individuals who were lost in the Drakensberg Mountains.

“It is most affirming that Netcare 911 has such outstanding staff members as Angela Roughley to serve its EOC in Midrand. We are also delighted that the new geo-location technology was so successful in providing us with the location of the lost group. I am sure it will play an important role in similar situations in the future,” he concludes.


Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare 911
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville and Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]