'I can't imagine life without Ian', says heartbroken fiancee on what would be their anniversary
THE heartbroken fiancee of mountaineer Ian McKeever has spoken of how she cannot imagine life without him.
Anna O'Loughlin, who was on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania where her partner was struck and killed by lightning on Wednesday, said she would miss him terribly.
They had been looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of their first meeting, which falls today.
In an emotional statement, she said the couple knew they were "soul mates" from the moment they first 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 soul mates.
"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.
"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 have emerged, 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, told the Irish Independent 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 is not common, it happens rarely; 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."
Mr McKeever's remains are expected to be repatriated next week.
The expedition began their ascent the day before New Year's Eve.
Mr McKeever, from Roundwood in Co Wicklow, mentored hikers, including schoolchildren, and formerly held the record for scaling the seven highest peaks in the world.
Tributes were paid by family, friends and Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday.
Mr McKeever was "extremely passionate" and had helped countless young people believe they could achieve their potential, the Taoiseach said.
His sister, Denise (40), said the family was "absolutely devastated" at his untimely death. He is survived by Denise and his parents Niall and Aideen, who live in Wicklow.
"We were so proud of Ian. He died doing what he loved," she said. "Ian was always on the go so he was a constant worry for my parents and myself. He absolutely loved Kilimanjaro and he climbed it hundreds of times. He loved teaching first-timers on the mountain and he thrived on all of that."