Tragedy in Herolds Bay as car plunges off cliff
A Herolds Bay mother and her two young children died on Tuesday afternoon, 22 October 2019, when their car plunged from a cliff at the Voëlklip lookout point. Initially there was no sign of the Volkswagen Caravelle or 35-year-old Heidi Scheepers and children Hugo, aged two and Cuzette, aged six. However, a search resulted in the discovery of some parts from the vehicle at the bottom of the cliff and Hugo’s body was recovered on Thursday, 24 October 2019. The search, led by Southern Cape South African Police Services, is ongoing, Cuzette is yet to be found. Heidi’s body was found in the water on Saturday. Multiple agencies have been involved in the search and recovery of the Scheepers family, including George Fire and Rescue Services and National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).
The 35-year-old Scheepers reportedly lived close to the Voëlklip beach where she, her six-year-old daughter Cuzette and two-year-old son Hugo went missing after going for a walk on the beach at about 18h00 on Tuesday. Her husband, Etienne Scheepers, alerted the authorities when they failed to return home after a trip to the beach in Herolds Bay. Scheepers had driven to the beach in a charcoal VW Caravelle TDI minibus.
A rescue helicopter was deployed on Wednesday and the NSRI arrived to help after someone spotted parts of what appear to be a VW Caravelle door, the same colour as the missing vehicle, at the bottom of a steep cliff.
The search shifted in the afternoon to the rocky cliff near a gravel road in Voëlklip, a remote stretch on the outskirts of the town. Southern Cape police spokesperson Captain Malcolm Pojie said police divers withdrew from the sea shortly after going in because the weather conditions were too rough to continue the search safely. “NSRI launched a boat to have a look while the helicopter hovered above,” Pojie said on Wednesday.
“At this stage, the only thing we can say is that parts of a vehicle [that appear to be] the same colour as the missing Caravelle were found at the bottom of the cliff. Due to the weather conditions, we were unable to retrieve the car parts at this stage.”
The cliff is about 100m high and rescuers abseiled down the cliff face but were unable to recover any of the vehicle parts.
“At this stage, we need to decide how to proceed. The weather is hampering the situation but our teams are trying their best to get answers,” Pojie said as the search for Scheepers and her children continued at the site.
Captain Pojie said the woman’s body was spotted floating in the sea and reported to the NSRI and the police by a member of the public. “The body was recovered by the NSRI as well as members of the forensic pathology services,” said Pojie on Saturday. He said the body was recovered at about 13h45. Police had opened an inquest docket and a post-mortem was conducted to determine the cause of death.
Etienne Scheepers said in a statement to the George Herald that there was nothing untoward happening before the disappearance of his wife and children. “We are personally financially sound and our businesses are doing well. We are in no financial plight. I also did not commit any form of fraud, have any affairs or beat my wife and children,” he said.
Describing what happened on the day they went missing, he said: “We took a drive down to the beach to spend time with the children ... We did not have an argument of any kind.” He said he left them there to pick up his car and to check on a boat, as they were leaving for a family holiday in Mozambique with his brothers the next day.
Scheepers said his wife said she would see him at home. When he arrived at their house in Oubaai, Heidi and the children had not arrived. “I asked our housekeeping staff if they had seen anyone and they told me the last time they saw Heidi and the children was when we left for the beach. Heidi had left her phone at home as it was just going to be a quick trip to the beach. She also didn't pack anything like bottles or dummies for the children.”
Southern Cape police on Tuesday, 29 October 2019, confirmed that Heidi Scheepers and her two-year-old son Hugo, whose bodies were found near Herolds Bay last week had died as a result of drowning. Police spokesperson Captain Malcolm Pojie said the results were contained in a preliminary report, after their autopsies were conducted over the last couple of days.
The search continues for six-year-old Cozette but, according to Pojie, rough sea conditions along the southern coastline are hampering rescue efforts. Pojie said that people would also be placed at lookout points dotted along the coastline in the hopes of spotting Cuzette.
Source: News24, IOL and EWN