Cape Town - The family of an Italian man who fell to his death four years ago from one of the Cape’s most popular winter scenic spots have taken legal action against those running the private reserve.

And relatives of Claremont resident Elaine Abrahams, who slipped to her death from a nearby area at the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve a year later, may do the same.

The Italian was one of three people who plunged to their deaths from the viewing area in the Matroosberg in three years.

The spot is a very popular and a spectacular viewpoint when it snows.

Pier Alberto Za, 38, who lived and worked in Cape Town, and a friend, had been walking from their 4x4 with camping chairs under their arms when they both slipped and fell in June 2009. Za died, his friend was helped to safety.

On Monday, Willem van der Colff, a litigation director at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, confirmed to the Cape Times that a summons had been issued against Andre Frederik Smith and the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve in the Western Cape High Court. Smith owned the farm Erfdeel, where the reserve was.

Didi de Kock of the Matroosberg reserve said: “The death of Mr Za was a terribly tragic accident and the family have instituted litigation and I am unable to discuss same.”

 

The three incidents occurred as follows:

* August 5, 2007 – Andrew Johns, 31, of Milnerton, plunged about 200m into a ravine.

In response to a Mountain Club of SA article on the incident published on a hiking blog, a user had said: “Andrew was playing and sliding on a cardboard box down the snow when it suddenly turned to ice. The momentum and the speed he was travelling at caused him to be unable to stop himself and he slid over the edge in full view of his wife and son.”

* June 27, 2009 – Za fell about 200m to his death. At the time a witness, Otto Rall, told the Cape Times he had seen Za and his friend walking towards the edge of the deep Groothoek Kloof when they fell.

Rall had seen the friend digging into the snow to slow himself down with ripped and bleeding finger nails. Using ropes from his 4x4, Rall had managed to help him to safety.

* June 27, 2010 – While on a trip to view the snow with colleagues and her then-seven-year-old son, Elaine Abrahams, 40, sat near the Conical Peak parking area.

When she stood up, she slipped and plunged 200m to her death. Rescuers were only able to retrieve her body four months later in an intricate and risky operation.

On Monday, Simon Abrahams, a firefighter and Elaine Abrahams’s brother-in-law who helped retrieve her body as well as that of Johns, said when he had heard Za’s family was taking action against the reserve, he had told her widower and was waiting to hear if he would do the same.

 

Abrahams and other rescuers felt the “one or two marker poles” in the area were not sufficient safety measures and that improved warning signs needed to be erected.

“If nothing’s done, Elaine’s death definitely won’t be the last,” Abrahams said.

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Cape Times