Body of missing hiker on Otter Trail recovered

South African National Parks (SANParks) has confirmed that the body of the missing hiker on the Otter Trail in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park has been recovered.

The male hiker from Johannesburg was 32.

The unnamed hiker was reported missing by his fellow 10 hikers after he went ahead during their hike and was last seen at approximately 13:00 on the second last day of the trail.

He did not arrive at the last overnight hut.

Bloukrans River Mouth crossing was swollen from heavy rains

Lodewyk van Rensburg, NSRI Oyster Bay station commander, confirmed that at 15:43 on Tuesday, 9 July, NSRI Storms River, NSRI Oyster Bay and SA National Parks Tsitsikamma rangers were activated following reports from NSRI Plettenberg Bay of a hiker reportedly missing on the Otter hiking trail at the Bloukrans River Mouth crossing.

When the 10 hikers reached the Bloukrans River Mouth crossing, swollen from heavy rains, they could not locate the man and we believe that they were not comfortable to try to cross the swollen river.

They had initiated a search for their missing hiking member.
During their initial search they noticed the missing man’s backpack afloat on the river, adrift and caught in among the rocky shoreline, in the direction of the river mouth.
They suspected that he may have tried to cross the river and they raised the alarm reporting the man to be missing, and reporting that he was suspected to have been swept down river or out of the river mouth.
NSRI Storms River and NSRI Oyster Bay search teams joined SANParks Tsitsikamma rangers on the scene where an extensive search commenced.

The backpack was located near to the river mouth where additional items, identified to believed to have belonged to the man, and believed to have been from the same backpack, were found on the river and/or swept out of the river mouth.
The SA Police Services and Police Search and Rescue were alerted. NSRI Plettenberg Bay was placed on alert.

Man was declared deceased

Despite an extensive search, hampered by unfavourable weather, by the swollen river and by the barely accessible terrain, there remained no signs of the missing man by nightfall.
The 10 hikers were accommodated at a cabin and we believe they have discontinued the hike.
The SA Police Services, Police Search and Rescue and SANParks Tsitsikamma rangers, assisted by NSRI Storms River, NSRI Oyster Bay, and NSRI Plettenberg Bay, continued in an ongoing sea and shoreline search from first light on Wednesday.
Air support was investigated dependent on weather.
Duran de Villiers, a local private helicopter and drone pilot, volunteered his EC120 helicopter to assist in the search at the request of NSRI Plettenberg Bay.
An LZ (landing zone) was prepared at the a gravel road near to the Bloukrans River Mouth. 
On arrival on the scene an aerial search along the shoreline and out to sea was conducted by the helicopter.

Not finding any signs of the missing man Duran landed at the LZ where he then launched a drone (from the gravel road) and during the drone search the body of the man was located offshore of the Bloukrans River Mouth.
Duran, and an NSRI rescue swimmer, joined SANParks rangers at the river mouth where Duran waded into the water and he was able to secure the body of the man to the shoreline.
Sadly the man was declared deceased.
The body of the man was taken into the care of SA Police Services and Police Search and Rescue divers, and Government Health Forensic Pathology Services. 
Police have opened an Inquest docket.
Despite this tragedy the services involved and the assistance of Duran’s aerial support are commended in assisting to bringing the grieving family closure.
Family of the deceased man are in the care of police and SANParks.

The South African website sends its condolences to the family and friends of the deceased hiker.

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