Wentworth Falls landslide: How British family were killed while hiking in popular tourist spot

A British family-of-five at the center of a fatal landslide tragedy were permitted to use a treacherous bushwalking trail despite weeks of torrential rain making the area dangerous for hikers.

A father, 49, and son, 9, died while a mother, 50, and another teenage boy, 14, are fighting for life after a horror landslide near Wentworth Falls, in the Blue Mountains, on Monday.

A multi-agency rescue operation was launched to retrieve the family – a husband, wife and three kids – from the 5km Wentworth Pass loop track after emergency services were called about 1.40pm.

The woman and 14-year-old boy, who suffered severe head and abdominal injuries, were winched from trail by paramedics just before 6pm.

They were airlifted to Westmead Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in a critical condition.

A girl, 15, who was uninjured, walked out of the track and is now being treated for shock.

The holidaying family were taking advantage of a warm and sunny Monday following weeks of rain in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

A video posted by sports and recreation blog ‘Find My Australia’ shows hikers winding their way down the steep cliff and up muddy embankments on the weekend.

While picturesque, the clip highlights the precarious nature of the valley walk, which features sharp descents down narrow stone stairways and towering walls of rock.

Two bushwalkers have died following a landslide in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney

A teenage boy and woman have been airlifted to hospital in critical conditions, while a fifth member of the family - a 15-year-old girl - was uninjured

A teenage boy and woman have been airlifted to hospital in critical conditions, while a fifth member of the family – a 15-year-old girl – was uninjured

Rescuers had struggled to access the victims due not only to the remote location, but the hazardous terrain and unstable trail because of days of heavy downpours across the Blue Mountains.

The Wentworth Pass track is notoriously steep and is considered as having a grade four difficulty under NSW National Park and Wildlife Service guidelines, which recommends only experienced bushwalkers use it.

Despite the muddy, slippery conditions, NSW Police said the part of the track where the tragedy happened was open to the public.

Several areas around Wentworth Falls have been closed since March 11 due to flood damage, with a major landslip recently shutting down Kedumba Valley Road, which is next to the trail.

National Pass, another trail about 350 meters away from Monday’s deadly incident, has also been closed for the past few weeks due to an ‘ongoing rockfall risk’.

A man who was at the popular tourist spot about the same time as the Brits on Monday told the Daily Mail Australia he cautiously cut his hike short because the ground was muddy and stairways were wet and he’d recently suffered a leg injury on a trek.

An hour after the tragedy, trail running organizer Ultra-Trail Australia announced the Wentworth Falls track was due to be upgraded later this week to make sure it was safe in time for their upcoming event.

‘We’ve been working closely with [National Parks and Council teams] to ensure that our courses will be good to go come 12-15 May, and we’re confident that they will be ready in five weeks time, ‘the group wrote on their Facebook page about 2.30pm.

The tragedy happened near the Wentworth Pass hiking track in the Blue Moutains, about 50km west of Sydney

The tragedy happened near the Wentworth Pass hiking track in the Blue Moutains, about 50km west of Sydney

Paramedics were winched from a rescue helicopter down the cliff face as they searched for anyone who had been taken by moving debris

Paramedics were winched from a rescue helicopter down the cliff face as they searched for anyone who had been taken by moving debris

A rescue operation (pictured) was launched to lift the critical patients out of the area for further medical treatment

A rescue operation (pictured) was launched to lift the critical patients out of the area for further medical treatment

‘Parks has asked us to let you all know about a few upcoming track closures this week on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th of April (weather dependent), which include sections of course near Fairmont Resort and Wentworth Falls.’

However, hours after the deaths, NSW National Park and Wildlife Service announced the section would be closed indefinitely.

‘The Wentworth Falls and Valley of the Waters precincts are closed following a rockfall incident,’ the department wrote on their website.

‘Please avoid this area until further notice.’

Hiking fanatics who visited the same trail in recent days have expressed their shock and offered condolences to the British family online.

Several areas around Wentworth Falls (pictured: A hiker on the trail on Monday) had been closed since March 11 due to flood damage, with a major landslip recently shutting down Kedumba Valley Road

Several areas around Wentworth Falls (pictured: A hiker on the trail on Monday) had been closed since March 11 due to flood damage, with a major landslip recently shutting down Kedumba Valley Road

‘This is the trail we completed two days earlier and were unaware of any dangers at the time,’ they wrote on Facebook.

‘Our thoughts are with the families of these walkers’.

The family were holidaying in Australia from the UK, NSW Police have confirmed, and the British Consulate is now assisting.

Authorities are still working to determine whether the landslide fell on the group while they were walking along a bush track, or if they were trekking along the cliff face that fell.

In an eerie post an hour after the tragedy, trail running organizer Ultra-Trail Australia announced the Wentworth Falls track was due to be upgraded later this week to make sure it was safe in time for their upcoming event

In an eerie post an hour after the tragedy, trail running organizer Ultra-Trail Australia announced the Wentworth Falls track was due to be upgraded later this week to make sure it was safe in time for their upcoming event

Seven paramedic road crews including special operations paramedics and two rescue helicopters with a critical care doctor and a critical care paramedic on board were dispatched to the scene

Seven paramedic road crews including special operations paramedics and two rescue helicopters with a critical care doctor and a critical care paramedic on board were dispatched to the scene

NSW Police Detective Acting Superintendent John Nelson described the trail as an ‘extremely dangerous, unstable environment’ during the rescue operation.

‘This was a really complex and delicate rescue operation for our crews who were working to access patients in rugged bushland and were navigating unstable ground,’ he said.

‘This is absolutely heartbreaking for all involved and a truly tragic ending to what I’m sure was meant to be a pleasant day out,’ he said.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by the treacherous terrain, which has been 'unstable' due to recent rainfall

Rescue efforts have been hampered by the treacherous terrain, which has been ‘unstable’ due to recent rainfall

The rescue operation also involved local police, Police Rescue, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks & Wildlife Services, Blue Mountains detectives, and PolAir and rescue helicopters

The rescue operation also involved local police, Police Rescue, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks & Wildlife Services, Blue Mountains detectives, and PolAir and rescue helicopters

Blue Mountains City Council Mayor Mark Greenhill offered his thoughts to the victims, their family, and friends.

‘Whether residents here or not, those who come within our beautiful Blue Mountains are taken to our hearts,’ Mr Greenhill said.

‘Moments like this cause pain and grief to our entire Blue Mountains family.’

Seven paramedic road crews including special operations paramedics and two rescue helicopters with a critical care doctor and a critical care paramedic on board were dispatched to the scene.

The rescue operation also involved local police, Police Rescue, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks & Wildlife Services, Blue Mountains detectives, and PolAir and rescue helicopters.

Wentworth Pass Loop is a 5km bushwalking track through the Blue Mountains National Park.  Pictured: an emergency services worker at the scene on Monday

Wentworth Pass Loop is a 5km bushwalking track through the Blue Mountains National Park. Pictured: an emergency services worker at the scene on Monday

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.