Teen Dangles From Swing At 165m Above Oribi Gorge For Over Two Hours After Winch Motor Malfunction

Teen Dangles From Swing At 165m Above Oribi Gorge For Over Two Hours After Winch Motor Malfunction

As Jessica Bruwer stood on a ledge before a thrilling plunge into the Oribi Gorge, the teen adventure junkie ignored an ultimately telling premonition.

Bruwer became the central figure in a rescue operation that would last more than two hours on Wednesday as she dangled 165m above bush and jagged rocks in the gorge below.

"It was our last day of holiday and wanted to end it off with a bang so we decided to do the Big Swing. Earlier I had a bad feeling but went ahead and did it anyway," she said.

The world’s highest gorge swing, elevated at a height of 55 storeys on the KZN south coast, is a popular attraction.

But after Bruwer's freefall was over, a winch motor that safely raises the jumper back to the ledge failed, leaving her up in the air for nearly two and a half hours.

"It was an amazing experience but they couldn’t get me back up. It had been raining and water got into one of the power boxes for the winch cables so I was dangling there," she said.

"I was just telling myself not to panic. I knew I should have trusted the feeling that I had," Bruwer added.

While rescue personnel set in motion their plan to retrieve Bruwer, the teen occupied her mind with moving her legs in a restrictive harness.

"The harness was very tight and they were telling me to move my legs while I was hanging there. It was getting difficult because I think I was losing blood flow and it was cold," she added.

Noel Labuschagne, of Wild 5 Adventures, abseiled down to Bruwer while police search and rescue officers and medics stood watch at the bottom of the cliff.

"He attached me to himself and had to cut my rope. I think that was the most stressful part of it," she said.

Labuschagne, speaking to TimesLIVE, said that Bruwer had been in no danger of falling.

"Both the jump cable and the safety line were unaffected and she was in no danger. I lowered myself to her and did what we call a pick off. Because the motor failed, we just lowered ourselves down to the bottom of the gorge," the rescuer said.

A mildly hypothermic Bruwer was examined by medics before making the meander back to her boyfriend and family.

"I don’t know if I would do the swing again. It was an eye opener for me," she said.

In 2014 an employee plunged to his death while demonstrating the swing. In another incident in 2009, a woman died after a tandem jump with her husband went awry and she slammed into rocks.

By Jeff Wicks, Times Live

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