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Cape Town - His family hoped he would show up at home, but on Monday night the body of missing UCT student Ilan Blecher was found at the bottom of a deep gorge.
It had started as a casual hike for the 19-year-old, as he and his older brother, Mischa, set off up Newlands Forest on Sunday afternoon.
But when Mischa, who is also studying at UCT, had to head to the university to finish some work at 4.30pm, Ilan decided to continue his walk.
It was the last time the student’s family saw him.
By the time of going to press on Monday night, rescuers had been unable to retrieve his body.
On Monday, gathered in the forest with rescue workers and friends who were searching for Ilan, Mischa, 21, said: “When I got back home, he wasn’t there. I just thought he had gone out or something, so I went to bed.”
But when Mischa woke up on Monday morning, Ilan still had not returned to the family home in Rondebosch.
“My parents were worried and started calling his friends. Some of his friends went to Newlands Forest and when they couldn’t find him they alerted the authorities.”
On Monday afternoon, a group of rescuers, including members of Wilderness Search and Rescue, Metro Emergency Medical Services, SANParks and the police’s K9 unit gathered at the entrance to the forest on the M3 near the forest station.
Cold winds swept through the crowd as they were briefed on the extensive search operation. Earlier, a helicopter had been dispatched to survey the area, but there had been no sightings of the first-year biology student.
At first Mischa was still optimistic.
“I’m calm, I’m sure we will find him,” he said.
Blecher’s father, Mark, said his son was an experienced hiker and had gone walking on the mountain countless times before.
“The problem is we just don’t know whether he went missing in the forest or outside on the way home. We just don’t know.”
Blecher’s mother, Salma Ismail, said: “We are looking everywhere for him. I hope he is somewhere safe.”
But with the light fading at 5.30pm, rescue teams found Ilan’s body at the bottom of the forest’s Dark Gorge above the contour path.
Wilderness Search and Rescue commander Anwaaz Bent told the Cape Argus that it would difficult for rescue teams to recover the body on Monday night because of the gorge’s depth.