Table Mountain claims World Cup visitor

The death of an American teenager on Table Mountain has South

African officials warning tourists they need to understand the

risks that go with exploring their nation’s natural wonders.

One of Cape Town’s main tourist attractions, Table Mountain

provides a spectacular backdrop for the best of Africa’s

beachfronts.

Yet the steep, wet paths cut through this rainforest show how

close the wild really is. Fifteen people died on the mountain last

year and nine already this year.

In the latest case, a 14-year-old boy vacationing with his

family for the World Cup fell to his death Saturday while hiking

down the mountain.

Ranger Trevor Solomons said he got the first call of an

emergency at a little after 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon, but by the

time he reached the scene it was already too late.

The boy was lying in shallow water amid rust-colored rocks at a

bottom of a 35-foot crevice three-quarters of the way up the

mountain.

“He was already gone. There was nothing further that we could

do,” he said, standing next to a waterfall at the scene.

“It looked like he was actually leaning to look a little

further down on to the waterfall and then he lost his balance,”

said Solomons, the head of security for South Africa’s National

Biodiversity Institute.

He warned all World Cup visitors to take heed that nature is

more fearsome here than photos and nature documentaries make it out

to be. “It is just a sign that says it can be dangerous in

Skeleton Gorge” where the accident occurred, Solomons said. “The

same (in) national parks where there are animals.”

Police spokesman Billy Jones said the Texas teen, who was not

identified, his parents and a sibling had taken a cable car to the

top of the 3,563-foot (1,086-meter) landmark. They then walked down

along a known but dangerous route.

“Please take note that it is a DIFFICULT and POTENTIALLY

DANGEROUS climb, particularly in wet weather,” a sign says.

Underneath it were two skull-and-bones signs to make it perfectly

clear.

Yet every year, people will not be stopped, Solomons said.

On Sunday, details of the accident had not been made public.

“We have been in touch with the family throughout,” U.S.

Consulate spokesman Nathan Holt said. “We provided assistance. We

extend our deepest condolences to the family. We thank South

African authorities for all their assistance.”

One day after the accident, many tourists at Table Mountain were

oblivious to the tragedy that had happened there 24 hours

earlier.

Capetonian Gideon Malherbe has been walking the Table Mountain

trails for 55 of his 65 years and still is stunned how easily some

of the 4.3 million visitors a year take risks.

“There were two young Americans going up there and that was

about 2:50 in the afternoon and planning to go all the way up to

the top of Table Mountain. And I told them the cable car may not be

operating when they get there because it is a cloudy day. But they

just carried on up.”

“There are danger signs all over” he said. “You just have to

follow the rules.”

Associated Press Writer Bradley S. Klapper contributed to this

story.