RECORD-breaking mountain climber and adventurer Ian McKeever was tragically killed on Africa's highest mountain after being struck by lightning.
Mr McKeever, a well-known charity fundraiser, was leading an expedition to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania when the group was beset by bad weather.
The 42-year-old was struck by lightning a day after reports of bad weather hampering the climb by a large group, including his fiancee Anna O'Loughlin and more than 20 other from Ireland.
Mr McKeever was living with Anna in Sandyford and they had been together for the past year. Her family are understood to be on the way to Tanzania to support her.
A number of Irish people received medical attention following the lightning strike but were not seriously injured.
A message on Mr McKeever's website last night confirmed his tragic death.
"It is with deep regret, that we, Ian's family, fiancée Anna and friends, advise of his sudden death on Kilimanjaro, doing what he loved best."
Mr McKeever was a leading member of the Kilimanjaro Achievers Team -- a group of experienced climbers that lead groups to the top of the mountain, which is considered the easiest of the world's highest mountains to climb.
The expedition was due to reach an area known as the Lava Tower yesterday, but it was plagued by heavy rain and behind schedule.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was offering assistance from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city.
While climbing, Mr McKeever had given followers a series of status reports on the expedition via his website. His final posting, a day before his death, read: “Torrential rain all day. Spirits remain good even if drying clothes is proving impossible. We pray for dryer weather tomorrow – the big day.”
However, the group never reached the summit of the mountain.
Mr McKeever’s death comes four years after another climber, Limerick man Gerard McDonnell, died in an avalanche on K2 in Pakistan.
A native of Roundwood, Co Wicklow, Mr McKeever was a highly experienced climber, having previously reached the top of Mount Everest.
A social sciences graduate from UCD, he previously worked as a radio presenter for AA Roadwatch and also worked in public relations and as “a qualified life coach”.
Climber and retired Garda, Martin Byrne, who conquered Mount Everest in 2011 and recently brought a team of fundraisers to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for the charity Concern Worldwide, said: “I am very saddened to hear of the death of Ian McKeever, who did so much for good causes.
"Being struck by lightning while climbing is an extremely rare occurrence and, for all the massive amount of planning, physical training and preparation that goes into such climbs, it is not a natural event anyone can prepare for.
"I have personally been affected by fatalities of climbing colleagues. My own climb to the peak of Everest was dampened considerably by the death five days earlier, just 48 metres from the summit, of Irish mountaineer John Delaney from country Laois. My thoughts are with Ian’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Renowned Irish explorer Pat Falvey paid tribute to his friend and colleague last night saying: “He was a dreamer – he followed his dreams with conviction and inspired others.
“I am absolutely shocked to hear about the death of my friend Ian. 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 continents – 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.”
Other tributes poured in last night from RTE presenter Joe Duffy who extended his sympathy to Mr McKeever’s family. He said he was saddened by the news. Mr McKeever had previous taken his two sons on an expedition to the mountain.
Another radio presenter, Sile Seoige, who climbed Kilimanjaro for a television documentary, said: “I can't believe it. My thoughts are with his friends and family.”
AA spokesman Conor Faughnan said: “Ian was an amazing person who was doing amazing things with his life. We all knew him very well – it was humbling to know him.”
Beginning in 2007, McKeever began a series of world record attempts which included his smashing of the Seven Summits Challenge, completing the climbs in 32 days less than the previous record.
Closer to home, he climbed Co Mayo's Croagh Patrick 35 times in 80 hours in 2008. The following year he was part of a crew attempting to be the first team to row the South Atlantic Ocean in less than 30 days. They were forced to abandon the attempt after the boat lost its rudder.
Most recently he led a group of 145 Irish teenagers, their teachers and fundraisers, to the summit of Kilimanjaro in August.
They set a record for the biggest ever group of people to reach the summit and raised money for Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin, Chernobyl International, and various charities.
Previously, in 2006, Mr McKeever helped his godson Sean MacSharry become the youngest person from Europe to reach the top of the 5,895m peak at the age of ten.
Mr McKeever was no stranger to difficult conditions during his mountain climbing career suffering, from snow blindness on his descent from Mount Everest and frostbite on Mount Elberus in Russia.