Durban - A 41-year-old Gauteng motorbike rider on a two-week holiday in KwaZulu-Natal endured a dramatic rescue in the iNanda Valley, in the heart of the Valley of a Thousand Hills, near Hillcrest, at the weekend.
Paul King, formerly of Durban but who now lives in Benoni, had been part of a group of nine riders scaling the steep and hilly terrain from about 6.30am on Saturday when disaster struck.
According to a friend, Vaughn Bekker – who was also part of the group – the drama unfolded at about 11am when the riders resumed their adventure after resting, having covered three-quarters of their route.
“We were going through a footpath and his foot slipped, jammed in a rut… his foot shattered quite badly,” he said.
“We were in the middle of nowhere. The closest road was about 2km downhill and about a kilometre uphill.”
Describing the drama, Bekker said when King’s leg was trapped, “he spun almost 180 degrees”.
“He fell over and lay capsized, almost inverted. We lifted him up but he’s a heavy guy – almost 100kg – placed a splint on his leg and had to drag him out,” Bekker said.
As King had been exposed to sweltering temperatures while awaiting assistance, the group had to make a makeshift shelter, “for some shade”.
They then had to wait for about three hours as the site was inaccessible for paramedics.
When paramedics found the place where the bikers were stranded, the ambulance could not reach the area and a rescue helicopter was brought in, but it also struggled to cope with the steep terrain.
ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said the operation had lasted “over six hours”.
Due to the rough terrain and unmarked dirt roads, paramedics had to be escorted by a local guide from the area, he said.
“Once paramedics managed to reach the location, they realised it would be too risky to try to carry the patient up the embankment.
The paramedics contacted the SAPS to assist with the rescue.
“The police rescue helicopter managed to evacuate the patient to an area where he could be treated and stabilised before being loaded into an awaiting ambulance.
“Fortunately the rider did not sustain any critical injuries and was treated for injuries to his shoulder and legs,” he added.
King was then transferred to the Hillcrest Private Hospital for observation.
His son, Shaun, spoke to The Mercury on Sunday, saying his father was in an intensive care unit and had “just come out of an operation on his leg”.
“Both his tibia and fibia bones were badly shattered. Doctors say he should be fine by tomorrow (today), but it all depends on how he recovers,” he said.
ER24 paramedics were called to Cliffdale Road in Shongweni on Sunday morning where a passing motorist had found the man lying several metres away from his bike.
They found the man with head and chest injuries.
Paramedics opted to call for a medical helicopter to airlift him from the scene to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.
It was only discovered later on that the man had been reported missing the previous evening when he did not arrive at home.
The exact circumstances regarding the incident are not yet known.