Gough Island techie ‘choked on own vomit’

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File photo: The Department of Environmental Affairs is making plans to bring the body of Johannes Hoffman, who died suddenly on Gough Island, back home.

Cape Town -

The Cape Town electrician who died on the remote Gough Island on Tuesday, choked on is own vomit, the Department of Environmental Affairs said on Wednesday.

Johannes Hoffman, 36, from Zonnebloem, was working on the island as a technician as part of the department’s expedition team which spends the winter on the island about 2 580km south-west of Cape Town.

His sudden death shocked colleagues who will receive counselling from a psychologist who will accompany a team to fetch the body, department spokesman Zolile Nqayi said on Wednesday.

Follow-up sessions will be done telephonically .

Nqayi said Hoffman’s death was still under investigation but doctors had sent the department a preliminary report.

“The cause of his death is not final but doctors have told the department that he choked on his vomit.

“He ate some food, then he brought the food up and choked. Doctors tried their best to save him but he died,” Nqayi said.

Every expedition team has a doctor as part of the team, he said.

Hoffman, a member of the Gough53 expedition team, worked as an electronic technician in the development and maintenance of electronic and communication systems.

He had undertaken similar expeditions for the department in the South African National Antarctic Programme and the Marion Island and Antarctic base.

“It was his second expedition on Gough Island as a technician,” Nqayi said.

He said the department was still working out plans to get to the island.

“The island can only be reached by ship. We wanted the SA Agulhas to make a quick turn to the island but it was not possible as the crew are making their way back to the country.

“The best way now is to get a small vessel to collect the body and return home. We hope to do so as soon as possible,” he said.

Hoffman was a lecturer first at the old Cape Technikon, now Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) , and then at Stellenbosch University.

He has 15 years experience in the industry.

CPUT and Stellenbosch University were not aware of his death.

Efforts to contact Hoffman’s family failed on Wednesday. Nqayi said the family had also asked for privacy.

South Africa has been operating a weather station on Gough Island since 1956.

Initially it was housed in the station at The Glen, but moved to the south-western lowlands of the island in 1963 where weather observations are more accurate.

This weather office operates the same as stations in South Africa with hourly climate observations.

The station is administrated by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Directorate: Antarctica and Islands.

Gough Island is a volcanic island rising from the South Atlantic Ocean to heights of over 900m above sea level with an area of 91km².

It is uninhabited except for the six to eight expedition members.

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Cape Times


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