Divers and drones used to search for missing doctor in Howick Falls area, KZN
Search and rescue teams were using drones to assist in the search for missing doctor, Vidwaan Singh, whose abandoned vehicle was found on Tuesday, 29 October 2019, in the vicinity of Howick Falls, KwaZulu-Natal. The search operations were reportedly suspended around 10h30 on Wednesday as specialist divers were called in from Port Shepstone to dive into the pool below the falls. The plunge pool is notoriously dangerous for divers and requires specialised equipment and technical skills. Singh reportedly was last seen leaving his surgery in Raisethorpe on Tuesday afternoon. Members of the South African Police Service's (SAPS's) Search and Rescue Unit recovered the 72-year-old's body at Howick Falls on Tuesday, 5 November 2019, after searching for a week.
Police Divers from Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Port Shepstone Search and Rescue Units, along with PMB K9SAR, Port Shepstone K9SAR and Durban Metro Police SAR initially formed a provincial dive team to continue the search for the missing doctor in Howick.
The police divers were assisted by a team from Working on Fire to carry the dive gear down a 2km winding steep trail into the gorge at the base of the Howick Falls waterfall
The dive operation was hampered by the amount of debris and large rocks underwater. the depth and extremely cold water limited the amount of time that the divers could spend conducting the underwater search The dive operation was suspended at 18h00 due to rain, thick mist and fading light
Divers and police dogs had to navigate sharp, wet rocks and brave cold conditions on Tuesday, 29 October 2019. The water below the falls is dark and murky and divers, guided in part by police dogs, have to navigate by feeling around. Divers are cautious of getting too close to the centre of the water, where the current is very strong. A police dog’s paw was cut on a sharp rock while searching on Tuesday.
Police spokesperson, Thembeka Mbele, says the team spotted a body floating in the water at Howick Falls on Tuesday. "The body was found by the search and rescue with the assistance of members of the community. The body has been identified as the missing doctor." Mbele says the cause of death will be investigated and an inquest docket has been opened.
The concerned family attempted to get hold of him and a search was initiated later in the evening, with various community safety and security organisations, as well as the police, scouring the area for him. His car was discovered at the falls and looked as if it had been involved in a rear-end collision. The vehicle was taken to the Howick police station.
Howick’s local newspaper Village Talk reported that police retrieved a note from Singh's car seat but as yet there has been no official confirmation from the police. Several well-positioned sources have also indicated that a note was found in the vehicle, according to Arrive Alive.
Village Talk interviewed eyewitnesses who claim to have seen Singh drive through the area before parking at the falls opposite the vendors. According to them, he sat in his car, a white BMW, for several hours before getting out at about 18h00.
Searchers combed the area for signs of the doctor on Tuesday night but when it got too dark and too dangerous, the search was called off and resumed again early on Wednesday morning.
Two drones were used to scan the area and the surrounding cliffs and bushes, to no avail, while search-and-rescue teams stood on standby, and the stunned and traumatised family of the doctor huddled around waiting for news.
A number of rescue teams also descended through the Bush Golf path down to the bottom of the falls for a closer inspection of the base of the falls.
Mountain Rise SAPS spokesperson Warrant Officer Joshua Maistry told Public Eye that Singh was last seen leaving his surgery at around 12h00 on Tuesday.
He was reported missing prompting search operations. Maistry reportedly said Singh's cellular phone was traced to the Howick Falls precinct where his car was found.