Sunday 22 September 2019

'Time is of the essence' - search for missing Trinity College professor on Mount Everest continues as fundraiser raises over €122K

Fall: Trinity College professor and climber Seamus Lawless had reached the summit on Everest early yesterday morning and was starting the descent
Fall: Trinity College professor and climber Seamus Lawless had reached the summit on Everest early yesterday morning and was starting the descent

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

THE family of an Irish climber who went missing on Mount Everest has said "time is of the essence" as the search for him continues.

Father-of-one Séamus Lawless (39) from Bray, Co Wicklow, fell at an altitude of 8,300 metres while descending from the world’s highest peak on Thursday.

Just hours after Mr Lawless reached the summit tragedy struck and the search has since been reclassified as a recovery mission.

His devastated family launched an online fundraiser to help cover the costs of the search efforts, which has raised more than €122,000 so far.

Seámus Lawless with Lucy Copeland
Seámus Lawless with Lucy Copeland

"It is with an extremely heavy heart that the Lawless family have had to set up this GoFundMe page to ask for donations," a spokesperson for the family wrote on the GoFundMe website.

"Shay achieved his lifelong dream on the morning of Thursday May 15 when he reached the peak of Mount Everest. Tragically, on his descent, Shay fell and has been missing since.  

"With the weekend upon us, we, the family of Shay, have been left with no other option but to ask for assistance in raising funds to gather a team of expert Sherpas to locate and bring our beloved Shay home to Ireland. Time is of the essence in the search mission and the costs of running this mission are substantial.

"At this moment in time we have little to no information about what happened on Thursday May 16, nor do we know the current location of Shay. It is our priority to locate him and bring him home and we appreciate all the support that can be offered as we face this hugely challenging situation."

Mr Lawless works as a professor in Trinity College and a vigil will be held there for him in the Long Room Hub at 8.15pm tonight.

A spokeswoman said in a statement: "At this deeply upsetting time, we are thinking of our friend and colleague, Séamus (Shay) Lawless. There will be a vigil this evening in Trinity College Dublin.

Seamus Lawless and Jenny Copeland on one of their earlier treks in training for the climb
Seamus Lawless and Jenny Copeland on one of their earlier treks in training for the climb

"'One candle can light a thousand candles and still remain lit itself’ - together as a community who knows Shay for his spirit and kindness, his strength and his resilience, and above all for his dreams and visions, we want to light a candle together to not lose sight of the light itself and to carry our hopes and thoughts as far as only light can carry them."

He had been part of an eight-member expedition team, led by mountaineer Noel Hanna. He achieved his dream of reaching Everest’s summit in a bid to raise €25,000 for the Barretstown charity, which provides support for seriously ill children and their families.

It is understood Mr Lawless slipped in an area known as the Balcony, after reaching the mountain's summit on Thursday morning.

Mr Mingma Sherpa, owner of Seven Summits Treks, told RTE News that conditions descending the mountain were "very good" but that Mr Lawless appears to have had an accidental fall.

"The Sherpas were shouting for him last night but couldn't find him," he said.

Mr Mingma continued that he has spoken to Mr Lawless's wife, Pam, and that she and their daughter Emma (4) are being kept up to date with developments from the Himalayas.

"It is a very difficult situation. We are searching for a body," he said.

"She called me many times, but how do we explain the details? When the team returns, we will have more details.

"We are very sad because we have lost one of our best mountaineers. Everybody is very upset in the Himalayas."

Dee Ahearn, chief executive of Barretstown, has said that everyone at the charity is thinking of Mr Lawless's loved ones as the search continues.

"This is a dreadfully upsetting and uncertain time for Seamus and his family.

"Our thoughts, and indeed the thoughts of the entire Barretstown community, are with Seamus, his family and friends," Ms Ahearn said.

Mr Lawless said when he was a child his father gave him a National Geographic map of the climbing route up the south face of Mount Everest. The map stayed on his bedroom wall as he grew up, staying there until he left for Nepal in April. 

The father of one said that he had been preparing for the challenge alongside fellow climbers from the Ireland on Everest group for four years.

"I turn 40 in July," he told the Sunday Independent in February. 

"My friends are joking that climbing Everest is my mid-life crisis.

"The Sherpas were shouting for him last night but couldn't find him."

  • For more information about the fundraiser or to donate please visit here

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