Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Experts issue safety warning after tragic death of Dubai hiker

An adventure company chief urges people to use professional guides when exploring remote and potentially hazardous spots

Kenyan Melvyn Munyua, who lived in Dubai, suffered fatal head injuries after jumping into a wadi in Oman.
Kenyan Melvyn Munyua, who lived in Dubai, suffered fatal head injuries after jumping into a wadi in Oman.

Hikers in the UAE are putting their lives at risk by joining "amateur" tour groups rather than hiring a professional guide, an expert said.

An adventure group chief said people could face "potential disaster" by not being fully prepared for arduous treks, particularly during the fierce summer heat.

The tragic death of an experienced hiker, who died after hitting his head on a rock when he dived in a freshwater wadi in Oman on Friday, has reopened a wider safety debate.

Melvyn Munyua, 41, a Kenyan hiker who lived in Dubai, was retrieved by helicopter at Wadi Al Arbeieen, south of Muscat and pronounced dead a short time later.

In June, a British man fell to his death while hiking in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah. He was among three other Britons who were hiking when the were injured and left stranded in the Al Manaie area, bordering Oman.

“There have, indeed, been way too many accidents in the mountains of UAE,” said Paul Oliver, chief executive of Absolute Adventure in Dubai.

“While the public should be encouraged to explore wilderness areas with friends they should be aware of the potential for disaster if things go wrong.

“Local governments need to do a better job of providing information to adventure seekers and ensure that, if seeking professional help, only properly trained guides are allowed to lead people into wilderness areas,” he said.

Mr Oliver said guide companies should adhere to accepted safety protocols, have safety management plans, write risk assessments for every trip and hold adequate public liability insurance.

It’s irresponsible for me to even suggest there is anything one could do to make hiking in summer safe

Amy Subaey

“In the UAE most trekkers choose to be led by members of Meetup groups,” he said.

“These are, for the most part, untrained amateurs with no ability to keep clients safe if something goes wrong.

“They cannot handle a missing person situation nor know what to do in cases of medical emergency."

He advised anyone who is planning to go on a hiking trip to ensure they tell someone where they are headed and when they expect to return.

“They should carry plenty of water for the duration of their trek; one litter of water per hour is a good amount,” said Mr Oliver.

“Carry high energy food or snacks, even if you don’t expect to be out for a long time and make sure you have a fully charged mobile with a list of emergency numbers.”

He urged trekkers to take a GPS and ensure they know how to backtrack their route if lost or too tired to continue on the original plan.

“Take an emergency blanket with you for shelter from heat, cold or to attract attention to your position, and carry a personal first aid kit and trekking poles.

“Poles can be used to carry an injured person or support an injured limb. Carry a whistle and learn the emergency call,” said Mr Oliver

They should also use a strong sunscreen, wear a hat and have lightweight, comfortable clothing.

“A good pair of trekking shoes is essential; trainers will often fall apart in the UAE’s rough mountain environment.

He also cautioned adventurers to never travel alone.

Another expert urged hikers to avoid hiking during summer altogether.

“Hiking safely in summer is easy – don’t go,” said Amy Subaey, director of UAE Trekkers.

“It’s irresponsible for me to even suggest there is anything one could do to make hiking in summer safe. It’s just not.

“There is no mobile phone service in the case you do get lost to call for help, or for that help to reach you in time.

“Most people simply are not aware of their real hydration needs in extreme heat, and dehydrate very fast.

“If there were even a limited general public understanding or awareness of how fast dehydration can set in and how deadly it is, nobody would attempt to go hiking until October,” she said.

Ms Subaey said the tragic death of Munyua also shed a light on the importance of swimming safety.

“A basic rule for swimming anywhere is: never dive into water you don’t know the depth of, especially the wadis in Oman.

“The water level and sediment level changes constantly. So, although it may appear on the surface that water level is high, the increase in sediment at the bottom will make it too shallow to jump.

“Being an experienced hiker does not mean anything when it comes to swimming in wadis in Oman, it’s an entirely different experience,” said Ms Subaey.

This article has been updated to clarify the accident happened on Friday, not Saturday, as was originally reported.

Updated: July 26, 2019 08:11 AM

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