Kenny leads tributes to 'passionate' McKeever

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny led tributes to the “extremely passionate” Irish adventurer Ian McKeever, who died on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on Wednesday.

Mr McKeever was leading a group of some 20 amateur climbers, mostly from Ireland, when he was struck by lightning.

Several other climbers, including Mr McKeever’s fiancee Anna O’Loughlin, were injured and needed medical treatment for minor burns and shock.

However, none of their injuries was serious or life-threatening, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said.

The group set off from Ireland to Tanzania with Mr McKeever’s company, Kilimanjaro Achievers, on December 28th. They began their ascent the day before New Year’s Eve and were on day four of the climb when the incident happened.

In online updates, Mr McKeever wrote that there was torrential rain but spirits remained good among the hikers.

In his final post on Tuesday, he wrote: “We pray for drier weather tomorrow – the big day. It’s the Lava Tower.” The tower is a rocky outcrop that is part of the Machame route.

Lunar landscape

The group is thought to have been in the lunar landscape section of the mountain when lightning struck.

Mr McKeever would have led the expedition with a local guide and other assistants, said friend and fellow mountaineer Pat Falvey.

For this to happen it “must have been traumatic for all of group”. However, rescue services were “fantastic”.

The climbing community was in shock that Mr McKeever should die on Kilimanjaro, considered one of the safest and easiest of the Seven Summits – the collective name given to the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

Mr Falvey described it as a freak accident and said that while climbers understood the risks of Everest and K2, for him to die there was “quite a shock”.

‘Unstoppable energy’

Mountain runner John O’Regan said Mr McKeever seemed “happiest when he was in the mountains . . . so to me he has gone enjoying what he did most”.

The Taoiseach described the climber as “extremely passionate” and said he had come to know and admire him for achievements, charity work and helping young people achieve their full potential.

“Ian said to me once that there was no place he would rather be than in the mountains,” said Mr Kenny.

The many charities for whom he raised money paid tribute to Mr McKeever.

The Irish Red Cross said his legacy would “live on in the positive impact he made”.

Chief executive of Chernobyl Children International Adi Roche said he was a “hero” with an “unstoppable energy”. Concern and the Alzheimer’s Society were among the other charities to recall his good work.

His friend Eugene Grey said that despite holding many world records, Mr McKeever was a “very humble guy” who “never boasted” and “always had something planned”.

Arrangements were being made to return Mr McKeever’s body to his family, some of whom are travelling to Tanzania.

His family are said to be “shattered” and “devastated” at his death.