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Rescuers blinded by laser while saving hikers

Shortly after 2.30pm on Sunday, March 15, Wilderness Search & Rescue (WSAR) was placed on standby when a call from hikers who were lost was received. Rescue efforts were hindered as someone from the Southern Suburbs continued to blind rescuers with a green laser during the mission.

The lost hikers had called from a cellphone and their position on Google Maps was somewhere in Window Gorge.

“One of our operatives who know the area well called them as we believed that with some instructions over the phone, they would be able to find their way off the mountain. Our planners had to work out from where the search and rescue had to be staged. It was then decided to take a hasty team up into the back of Table Mountain starting from Constantia Neck. They departed just after 3pm. As more information became available, additional mountaineers were called to assist and a trailer with climbing equipment was also dispatched. To maintain communications with the search parties, a radio base was established at the Newlands forest Station,” says WSAR spokesperson Johann Marais.

Teams searched the mountain area until Team 1 reported voice contact with the hikers after hours of searching.

Rescuers scaled the mountainside with ropes to reach the distressed hikers but were blinded during the mission as someone located near the Southern Suburbs was aiming at the rescuers with a green laser pointer.

“During our rescue on Sunday, 15 March 2020 in the vicinity of Skeleton and Window Gorges our rescuers on the ropes were laser pointed by someone in the Southern Suburbs with a green laser, and suffered night blindness as a result. This made the technical operation harder and more dangerous than it should have been. We appeal to people to refrain from doing this. We appreciate the support from the public at large. We however can really manage without laser beams blinding our operatives,” said Marais on behalf of WSAR.

While to some this may seem like a simple and harmless prank, it is in fact highly dangerous and puts the lives of both the rescuers and those in need of rescuing in danger. Community members are being urged not to do this and to make sure that anyone who is caught doing this is reported.

The rescue mission continued into the late hours of the evening and all rescuers and hikers were safe at about 10pm on Sunday, March 15.

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