Overweight woman freed after 10 hours

Rescuers battled for 10 hours at the Cango caves near Oudtshoorn to free an overweight woman who got stuck in a narrow passage, trapping 23 other tourists.

Rescuers battled for 10 hours at the Cango caves near Oudtshoorn to free an overweight woman who got stuck in a narrow passage, trapping 23 other tourists.

"We were back in operation yesterday morning," said Hein Gerstner, manager of the caves, yesterday.

There was no damage to the caves. Drilling or cutting were needed to rescue the woman, who got stuck on Monday.

"There was permission granted to drill or to cut rock in a worst- case scenario but it would have been a last resort," he said.

Gerstner said the woman was freed by workers using rock-climbing equipment and liquid paraffin.

The woman slipped and fell and ended up wedged tight.

"Her leg had folded under her and she could not stand up. If she had landed straight up on both legs there would have not been any trouble," said Gerstner.

Twenty-three other people were trapped, unable to get past the stuck woman.

Gerstner said staff were accustomed to people getting stuck at the caves.

"We believe what goes in must come out again. People get stuck all the time - that's one of the unfortunate things that happen, it's part of the adventure."

The woman had been warned that she was not suited for the route.

"She was told at the ticket office that she was too big to take part in that section of the tour. But her husband insisted that she take part," he said.

Gerstner said the guide also told the woman, when she reached the tunnels, that she should reconsider before going on.

"The woman was extremely offended and laid a charge with the management.

"But she was too big. We will have to be a lot more stringent with people, they will have to adhere to the criteria of difficulty of the routes," Gerstner said.

Visitors became annoyed when they were stopped from entering the caves.

Monday's rescue operation involved a private ambulance service, the ambulance teams of Oudtshoorn and George, and a rescue helicopter.

It was an expensive exercise, Gerstner said. - Sapa

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