Table Mountain claims World Cup visitor

Table Mountain claims World Cup visitor

Published Jun. 13, 2010 9:53 p.m. ET

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.