Two die as church group freezes in the Drakensberg

Two people have died after a church group spent a night in freeezing weather at the top of the Mount-Aux-Sources peak in the Drakensberg near Witsieshoed in Qwaqwa, Free State police said on Saturday. Sergeant Mmako Mophiring said the group left for Mount-Aux-Sources on May 1 for a prayer session on the mountain.

He said four people were still being treated at the Mofumahadi Manapo Regional Hospital in Phuthaditjhaba on Saturday.

He said he suspected that the group consisted of nine members of the Universal Church in Phuthaditjhaba.

“The group of young men and women aged between 17 and 22, including their pastor, left home to the mountains with the aim to pray, but things went wrong,” said Mophiring.

The group arrived at the foot of the mountain at the car park at about 5.30pm on May 1. He said the security guard allowed the group entry to the area, and later said he believed that they would not climb onto the escarpment, past the chain ladders.

Nevertheless, police suspect the group climbed to the peak of the mountain.

Mophiring said the group allegedly returned during the night “freezing to death” and although they tried to find shelter along the road, weather conditions were not in their favour.

“They slept on the mountains that night and allegedly went past the security guard, who was in his office at the gate,” said Mophiring.

Two members of the group rushed to a nearby hotel to get help.

Mophiring said an ambulance eventually arrived at the hotel and took the group to hospital.

“Two members from the group did not respond well and they were put into ICU in the hospital to check if they could recover,” he said.

Mophiring said it was not clear when the two people had died.

Mophiring said the young pastor was not immediately admitted to hospital and had gone to report the incident. - Sapa

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