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Durban - Hilton College suffered a second tragedy on Thursday when a Grade 9 pupil suffered multiple seizures while hiking in the Drakensberg mountains as part of a leadership excursion.
Chris Loxton was evacuated from the mountain but suffered further seizures and died early on Friday morning.
Earlier this week another grade 9 pupil, Xilombe Tlakula was seriously injured when a boulder fell on him in the Cathedral Peak area. His arm had to be amputated.
Chris’s Outward Bound group was in Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho. It is part of the school’s teamwork initiative.
In a statement released by the school on Friday morning, principal Peter Ducasse said Chris was hiking on the Drakensberg mountain on Thursday afternoon when he had a seizure.
“After specialist medical advice had been sought, a decision was made to evacuate him from the mountains.
“A 4x4 ambulance was dispatched from Underberg to collect the boy and to transfer him to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg,” Ducasse said.
He said Chris was accompanied in the ambulance by two paramedics.
They were Brett Deavin, director of Berg Protection Services and paramedic Aubrey Mweli.
“During the transfer, Chris suffered repeated seizures and his condition deteriorated to such an extent that the medical team was unable to save him.
“Tragically he passed away during the early hours of this morning,” said Ducasse.
On Friday morning the school’s marketing spokesman, Paul Guthrie, told the Daily News their focus was now on their pupils and their families and the school would issue a statement later on Friday.
He said the various groups on excursion were returning on Friday.
Gavin Raubenheimer, Mountain Club of South Africa search and rescue convener, was involved in co-ordinating both rescues.
He said Chris’s group was walking in the Southern Drakensberg far away from Xilombe’s group.
“There were two adults and a group of about nine to 10 boys.
“Two paramedics from the Berg Protection Services in Underberg were also involved,” he said.
Deavin said he and Mweli had been joined by a policeman for the trip to the national park.
Captain Veybrandt Conradie of the SAPS assisted them with getting through the Lesotho border post.
He said Chris had been having seizures throughout the day and right up to the time they picked him up at 8pm on Thursday.
“It normally takes a person a day to reach this destination.
“They were at Sehlabathebe and the terrain is quite rough, worse than Sani Park.
“We had to get special permission from the SAPS and from Lesotho to keep the border posts open.
“We tried to stabilise him, which was quite difficult.
“So we felt our only alternative was to get him to hospital as quickly as possible,” he said.
They left the park at 9pm and were told to take him to the Mediclinic in Pietermaritzburg but decided that the hospital in Kokstad was closer.
According to the school’s website, various year groups, forms one to three, left on Outward Bound excursions on Tuesday to learn about team work, leadership and enjoying the outdoors.
The Form I group stayed in the Valley at the Henley Lapa, the Form IIs were hiking in the Drakensberg and the Form IIIs were at the Spirit of Adventure near the Shongweni Dam.
Also from the school’s website, Chris had been an avid rower and was on the school’s U15 team.
Messages of condolences were already on Twitter on Friday morning.
“My heart bleeds for the Loxton family today and always xxx,” tweeted Ali Mclean.
Andrew Mclean tweeted “RIP Chris Loxton, Hilton Grade 9 boy, son of Stuart & Debbie Loxton.”
“Thoughts and prayers go out from the Hilton family to the Loxtons after their tragic loss,” tweeted Hilton College.
On Wednesday, Chris’s classmate, Xilombe was rescued off the mountain when his arm was partially severed by a falling rock.
The school said Xilombe’s arm was amputated yesterday and that he was in a stable condition.
The group Xilombe was in had been hiking through the Tseke Tseke Pass in Cathedral Peak with two adults and eight boys.
Some of Xilombe’s group had to trek up a pass for about an hour to get a cellphone signal and others stayed behind to support him and tried to stem the bleeding.