Avid hiker David Watson died at one of his favourite spots 963 m above sea level while hiking to Maanschyn Kop.
The 75-year-old, a seasoned hiker who had recently returned home from completing a hike in Mont Blanc in the Alps (Switzerland) with a group of fellow hikers, decided to hike on his own along his usual Sunday morning route from Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve to Maanschyn Kop on the adjacent reserve.
Giorgio Lombardi, Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve warden, said Watson’s wife became alarmed when he did not return home at the expected time.
He said: “His wife called me at about 12:30 to say he hadn’t returned after calling her at 10:20 from near Maanschyn Kop to say he would be home in about an hour and a half. Just before that, at about 10:00, he had also called her to say he was taking shelter at Moon Refuge because it was misty and windy.”
Lombardi informed the authorities and a search for Watson was launched. He had only praise for the extensive search party, consisting of Wilderness Search and Rescue, CapeNature, members of the community, Watson’s fellow hikers, trail runners, special sniffer dogs, a drone operator and Overstrand Fire and Rescue.
“There were doctors on standby and chaplain Mark Robson also arrived,” he said. “Everyone stood together, it just shows what an amazing community we live in.”
The Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSR) Incident Commander confirmed his team started searching the routes Watson usually took for any sign of him. “The search continued until about 03:00,” he said.
The AMS search and rescue helicopter joined the search early Monday morning. Watson’s body was reportedly sighted near the beacon on Maanschyn Kop.
“What serves as consolation is that we didn’t find him crumpled and broken somewhere on a ledge but in a spot that was very special to him,” Lombardi said. “He still had his walking stick and cellphone with him. He was an amazing gentleman who will be sorely missed.”
The incident commander confirmed the AMS helicopter was used to fly Watson’s remains down from the mountain top.
Authorities could not be drawn on the possible cause of Watson’s death, and stated a post-mortem would be conducted.
Captain Fadila September, spokesperson for the Hermanus Police, confirmed no foul play is suspected.
“An inquest docket has been registered and a post mortem will be done to determine the cause of death,” she added.
Watson’s distraught widow was too emotional to speak to the media.
John Saunders, chairperson of the Hermanus Bird Club, described Watson as “a wonderful man” who was a keen birder with a friendly soul.
Sarah Taylor, a member of the group that usually hiked with Watson on a Sunday, added: “He was incredibly warm and generous with his knowledge of business.
“Even though I am years younger, I could never keep up with him and some of the older members of the group, but David was the one who would stay behind with me on hikes to keep me company. He was incredible.”
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