Conqueror of Kilimanjaro killed by lightning on beloved mountain

Irish climber Ian McKeever inspired others to follow their dreams

“Everyone’s happy,” Irish mountaineer Ian McKeever wrote on Facebook, three days into a climb of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, in which he was leading a group of 20, and during which time it had barely stopped raining for a second.

He was killed on Wednesday night in a lightning storm on the mountain that left others in the party with minor injuries. According to the many friends that paid tribute to the well known, record-breaking mountain climber from Ireland, his happiness was an extremely difficult thing to conquer.

The 42-year-old was struck down in a freakish tragedy as he led his hikers in the direction of the Lava Tower, a celebrated site on the top of Africa’s highest peak.

Others in the group – mostly from Ireland – also hit by the lightning storm needed medical treatment for minor burns and shock, but their injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

The Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny knew Mr McKeever, and was among the first to pay tribue to him. “I had come to know him over recent years and I admired him not only for his own achievements and charity work but also for his work with young people in challenging them to achieve their full potential,” he said.

Mr Kenny recalled getting text updates from Mr McKeever when he led an expedition of students from schools in the Taoiseach’s native Castlebar to Kilimanjaro’s 5,895m-high summit.

“He was extremely passionate about what he did and driven in his belief that everybody can achieve their potential,” he said. “Ian said to me once that there was no place he would rather be than in the mountains.

“I would like to extend my sympathies to his fiancée Anna and his family, friends and fellow adventurers.” Anna was with him during the climb.

Arrangements are being made to make Mr McKeever’s remains available to his family, some of whom are travelling to Tanzania.

“Torrential rain all day,” he had written, the day before they moved in the direction of the Lava Tower. “Spirits remain good even if drying clothes is proving impossible! We pray for dryer weather tomorrow – the big day.” But the weather deteriorated further.

A lecturer and broadcaster from Lough Dan in Co Wicklow, Mr 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.

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

The adventurer was known for many feats, including scaling Mount Everest. In 2008, he helped his then 10-year-old godson Sean McSharry become the youngest person in Europe to reach the top of Kilimanjaro.

More recently he had been attempting, along with African climbing guide friend Samuel Kinsonga, to break the record for the fastest ascent, as part of their anti-racism Black and White Makes Sense Campaign.

He was the author of two books Give Me Shelter and Give Me Heroes and was working on a third book Give Me 28 Days.

Pat Falvey, renowned Irish explorer, said Mr McKeever was “a dreamer” who “followed his dreams with conviction and inspired others”.

“I am absolutely shocked to hear about the death of my friend Ian,” he told the Irish Independent newspaper.

“It was a freak accident and a complete fluke. I have lost two friends in lightning strikes, including one on the Himalayas – but they are very rare on Kilimanjaro.”

Mr Falvey continued: “Ian has done the Seven Summits – the highest mountain on each continent – and this is the easiest one to do.”

“Any normal person can climb it, and more than 20,000 people do so every year. I’d like to pay my condolences to his family.”

On his Facebook page last night, a statement said: “It is with deep regret, that we, Ian’s family, fiancée Anna and friends, advise of his sudden death on Kilimanjaro, today, doing what he loved best.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - Kent - £43,000

£35000 - £43000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: C# and .Net Developer - n...

Guru Careers: Digital Marketing Exec / Online Marketing Executive

£35 - 40k: Guru Careers: Our client has a new role for a Digital Marketing Exe...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'