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Cape Town - The body of Pieter Morkel, the hiker who disappeared in the mountains of the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, has been found, although its location and poor weather conditions made it impossible to retrieve it on Friday.
Rescue teams found Morkel’s body after two days of searching.
Morkel, 35, left to camp overnight on Monday morning, but when he didn’t return by Tuesday night, his sister Alet alerted police.
There were more than 40 people searching, but the terrain made it difficult.
Donny Dunn, Wilderness Search and Rescue co-ordinator, said Morkel’s bag was found first, then his body a few metres away.
“He was found in an area which was very high up and would take a very skilled and experienced climber to reach. It is suspected he slipped and fell from a higher ledge. Although we haven’t been able to confirm the full extent of his injuries, we believe his death was instant and painless.”
Dunn explained that the location of the body made it impossible for the ground team to retrieve it, and that a helicopter would airlift the body out. However, harsh weather prevented the helicopter from getting close on Friday, and the retrieval team was forced to call off operations for the day.
“Heavy rain, mist and cloudy conditions made it impossible for the helicopter to extract the body. We will move out first thing (this) morning to retrieve the body,” he said.
Police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said an inquest docket had been opened.
Morkel’s sister Alet said they had received support from friends and family since the news broke.
“We’re holding up as best as we can, and everybody’s been helping us through this difficult time. It’s very painful, but we are grateful that the body was found and that we were not left wondering what happened to him.”
Morkel had often stayed overnight in the reserve, she added.
“He loved nature and had a great passion for everything outdoors. Whether it was camping, hiking or climbing, he just loved being surrounded by nature. He was such a lovely person and made friends very quickly because of his easy-going nature.”
Morkel lived alone in the foothills of the reserve near Stellenbosch.
Alet said they had tried to explain Morkel’s death to his three young children, who live with their mother.
“We’ve told them what happened to their father, but they’re still very young and it’s hard for them to understand what’s going on.”
Funeral arrangements would be made once the body had been recovered.