7 January 2013

Tanzania: Mountaineer Body to Be Flown to Ireland

Arusha — THE body of Irish Mountaineer, Mr Ian McKeever who was struck dead by a bolt of lightning while ascending Mount Kilimanjaro is still in Moshi awaiting to be airlifted to Dublin in the course of this week.

Authorities in Kilimanjaro Region have confirmed that following the tragic weatherbased accident, efforts concentrated in rescuing teams of other climbers who were caught in torrential downpour on top of Africa's highest peak last week continue.

The victim's fiancee, Ms Anna O'Loughlin who accompanied McKeever in the fundraising expedition comprising of 22 other trekkers from Ireland, was injured by the strike of thunder but her condition became worse after she heard about the death of her fiancee.

A team of school children who were also climbing Mount Kilimanjaro last week, had to be hastily helped down as they were reportedly in a spell of shock following the incident. Incidences of lightning striking people dead on Mount Kilimanjaro, according to experts, are rare happenings on the continent's highest elevation and last week's episode was the first in almost 15 years.

Local Guide, Mr Said Makacha who was leading the pack in which MacKeever belonged, said the excited team of 23 targeting to reach the peak, insisted on trekking despite the downpour;

"They simply put on their rain coats and marched on!" The Conservator of Kilimanjaro National Park, Mr Erustus Lufungulo, recalled that the last time a climber was killed by flash of lightning while trekking on the mountain was back in 1999, a decade and a half from last week's accident.

Irish adventurer, Mr Ian McKeever died on the spot after he was struck with lightning last Wednesday, an incident which injured several people in a group of 23 climbers who were trekking Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.

According to Mr Lufungulo, when a similar incident occurred in 1999 one person was also killed when thunder struck a team of climbers. Otherwise tragic episodes related with thunder strikes have been rare on Kili.

"Usually thunder strikes on the tallest object and at 4000 metres, Kilimanjaro is essentially a desert with no vegetation cover, only sand and rocks, which means a walking or standing human being will be the highest figure and main target of such weather calamity," explained Mr Lufungulo.

"The guides are well trained to ensure that, whenever it rains and the pack they are leading happens to be advancing at the height of 4000 metres and above, they should all take cover in caves or under rocks," added the Conservator.

Following the tragedy, a team of Leitrim school pupils, all aged between 16 and 17, who were also climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity when a bolt of lightning killed Ian, 42, on Wednesday night left in hurry due to fear. Meabh Gleeson, Siobhan McTague, Donnchadh Dolan and Conor Moran, from Ballinamore Post Primary School, in Dublin, Ireland have just cut short their expedition and flew back home. Their principal,

Mr Padraig Leydon, said: "They have all been left severely traumatized by this tragedy. They had been planning this for nearly two years and have raised over 7,000 Euros for their charities. "Everyone was so excited heading off to Tanzania just a few days ago and this has been an awful tragedy."

The record-breaking climber who also climbed Kilimanjaro in 2008, was struck as he led a party of 23 to the summit in torrential rain. The charity fundraiser's fiancee, Ms Anna O'Loughlin, who described the victim as her 'soulmate', was also injured in the accident. Coincidentally the couple had met for the first time in 2008 while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and struck vows of relationship.

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