Belfast Telegraph

Fiancée's anguish after Irish climber is killed by lightning

By Paul Melia

The heartbroken fiancée of mountaineer Ian McKeever (42) has spoken of how she cannot imagine life without him.

Anna O'Loughlin, who was on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania when her partner was struck and killed by lightning on Wednesday, said she would miss him terribly and had looked forward to celebrating the anniversary of their first meeting today.

In an emotional statement, she said the couple knew they were “soulmates” from the moment they met.

“I met Ian exactly a year ago, as was typical of Ian, so much was lived in this time,” she said. “From the moment we met we knew we were soulmates.

“We spent so much time together, Ian was never off duty when it came to his charity work and climbing, so we did that together, climbing, trekking and meeting and making friends from Carrauntoohil to Lugnaquilla.

“I want to thank everyone who has made this impossible time a little easier, particularly our fellow climbers who despite their own circumstances have been so strong for me. The volume and nature of tributes says so much.

“Ian, I love you dearly, I miss you terribly, I cannot conceive what to do next without you, but yet I know you will always be with me.”

Further details of the last moments of the 42-year-old mountaineer and adventurer emerged yesterday with Tanzanian authorities saying he was en route to hospital when he died.

It also emerged that three Irish climbers in his party were struck with the same bolt of lightning which killed Mr McKeever, but they survived with minor injuries.

The well-known charity fundraiser was leading an expedition of 24 climbers to the summit of Kilimanjaro when he was struck by lightning at about 12.30pm.

A spokesman for Tanzania National Parks, Pascal Shelutete, said that four of the party were treated in hospital.

“There was quite a lot of rain, and about 24 people were on their fifth day climbing the mountain,” he said.

“They were about to reach the point where they were supposed to stay overnight, but at midday huge rains accompanied by thunderstorms and lightning occurred and unfortunately Mr McKeever was hit by that.

“Lightning happens rarely, but this is the first time we have experienced this calamity.”

Each route to the summit is covered by a rescue team, which was at the scene shortly after he was struck.

“He was still alive when the rescue team arrived there. On the way down, that's where things went wrong and that's when he passed away.

“The vehicles could not reach the place where Mr McKeever was, and it would take almost an hour to get to a place where they could take him to hospital. Four of the party were also injured and taken to hospital. They were released and are getting on well.”

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is offering assistance to Mr McKeever's family and the travelling party, some of whom are already on their way home.

Mr McKeever's remains will be repatriated next week.

The expedition set off to Tanzania from Ireland on December 28 and began their ascent the day before New Year's Eve.

Mr McKeever, from Co Wicklow, formerly held the record for scaling the seven highest peaks in the world.

Tributes were paid by family, friends and also Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday.

Profile

A lecturer and broadcaster from Lough Dan in Co Wicklow, Ian McKeever regularly mentored hikers, including many Irish schoolchildren, through his Kilimanjaro Achievers organisation.

He was the former holder of the record for climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents in the fastest time, which includes Mount Everest. He was the author of two books, Give Me Shelter and Give Me Heroes.

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