FORMER colleagues and friends of tragic adventurer Ian McKeever have paid tribute to the record-breaking climber who was killed after being struck by lightning on Africa's highest mountain.
Hundreds of mourners turned out for the the Co Wicklow funeral of the 42-year-old who had been leading an expedition to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro when he was killed in the freak incident two weeks ago.
His distraught fiancee, Anna O'Loughlin, who was injured in the incident, attended the funeral in St Laurence O'Toole's Church in Roundwood, Co Wicklow, on crutches.
Among the well-known faces at the funeral were 'Voice of Ireland' presenter Kathryn Thomas, Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh and television presenter Lorraine Keane, who worked with Mr McKeever on the AA Roadwatch radio bulletins.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who took part in last year's Croagh Patrick Challenge with Mr McKeever, was represented by his aide-de-camp, Commandant Michael Treacy.
In an emotional eulogy, his sister Denise told mourners: "Before Ian was an adventurer he was a son, brother and a much-loved member of our family. We will miss him very much and I can't imagine what life will be like without him or without hearing about his next crazy adventure."
She said their parents, Niall and Aideen, "were so very proud of him and his many achievements".
Meanwhile, his friend Gordon Mac an Bhaird, who was involved in Mr McKeever's Kilimanjaro Achievers organisation, said it was "regrettable that he did not receive the recognition he truly deserved when he was living – especially when he returned from the seven summits", referring to Mr McKeever's 2007 smashing of the world record for climbing the highest peak on seven continents, including Mount Everest.
Speaking of the accident that claimed his friend's life, Mr Mac an Bhaird said: "His health and safety record on the mountain was impeccable. His death was the only death during his Kilimanjaro Achievers treks and I know he would want that said."
Another friend, Eugene Grey, spoke of Mr McKeever's public relations career and said he was a man of "such extraordinary humility, achievement and friendship". He said he knew Mr McKeever as "the dude".
"During the shock and sadness of the last 10 days, I have taken some solace that my dude has been honoured so publicly," he said.
"How many times has Ian showed up in some God-forsaken multi-coloured sports car that generally lasted about six months," he joked.
"In a world where so many, through either the need, the pressure of family desires or even through laziness, live very predictable lives, thank God for people like Ian."
She said she encouraged him to get a job at AA Roadwatch "because he had just the most incredible voice" and said he introduced her to mountain climbing.
"We did the five highest peaks in Ireland and the UK together," she said.
The AA's Conor Faughnan said: "It's a desperately sad day. It was very moving in the church. You only realise, when you see the amount of people here, the amount of lives that he touched."