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West Cape Howe rock climber’s death: Risky operation to retrieve body underway

Headshot of Peta Rasdien
Peta RasdienThe West Australian
Operation to retrieve climber's body underway
Camera IconOperation to retrieve climber's body underway Credit: The West Australian

A delicate operation is underway to retrieve the body of a rock climber who fell to his death in WA’s Great Southern on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old Perth man was with a group of eight friends when the tragedy unfolded in an area near Dunsky beach, about 4km from the main lookout at West Cape Howe National Park.

The group had successfully concluded a climb in the morning, after a rest the man and another climber decided to undertake a second climb in the afternoon.

They had successfully descended a sheer granite cliff face and were ascending when a rockfall caused the 29-year-old to lose his grip and fall 20m down the cliff face.

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Risky conditions mean the man’s body could not be retrieved overnight.
Camera IconRisky conditions mean the man’s body could not be retrieved overnight. Credit: Isabel Vieira / Albany Advertiser/Albany Advertiser

Great Southern Police Acting Superintendent Paul McMurtrie said the extremely risky conditions meant the man’s body could not be retrieved on Tuesday night and emergency crews had to wait until first light on Wednesday to begin the operation.

“It is tragic news for the family,” he told radio station 6PR.

Great Southern Police Acting Superintendent Paul McMurtrie.
Camera IconGreat Southern Police Acting Superintendent Paul McMurtrie. Credit: Isabel Vieira

Supt. McMurtrie also revealed the man’s partner was among the group of climbers when tragedy struck and she was understandably very distressed. The other man involved in the climb was injured and was taken to hospital after he too fell a short distance in the rock fall.

“We had the drone up at first light this morning and I’m glad that no retrieval attempt tried last night because it is certainly sheer cliff face. The rescue helicopter was considered last night but because of the winds and the darkness they couldn’t carry out the rescue.

“The SES vertical rescue service, they were deployed, but unfortunately because of the complication of the rock face and the fall, the decision was made to carry out the retrieval in the morning for the safety of all.”

The coastal cliffs in West Cape Howe National Park are a popular destination for rock climbers and slackliners.

SES, Police and DFES crews are all at the site to aid the retrieval effort.
Camera IconSES, Police and DFES crews are all at the site to aid the retrieval effort. Credit: Isabel Vieira

Supt. McMurtrie said police, SES and Department of Fire and Rescue crews were all on site to aid in the retrieval which could take several hours.

“It will take the SES quite some time today, it is a very dangerous area and you can’t use too much caution for all the safety of all concerned but obviously we want to return the young man to his family.”

It is the third major rescue undertaken in the Great Southern in the past week, coming after two rescues on Bluff Knoll over two consecutive days.

One of which involved the rescue of a man who had to be stretchered 2.6km back from near the top to the carpark after he ran into trouble with severe cramps.

On Tuesday, Supt. McMurtrie said the circumstances surrounding the man’s death would be investigated by police.

“Every indication is that these people have taken all precautions at this point but that will form part of the investigation for the coroner’s file,” he said.

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