Liaison officer dies of altitude sickness in Everest region

KATHMANDU: A government official who was deputed to monitor the year’s sole winter expedition on Mt Everest has died of altitude sickness near Lobuche of Khumbu region in eastern Nepal on Tuesday, expedition organiser informed.

Padam Jung Rai, Non-Gazetted First Class (Nayab Subba) at the Chhauni-based National Museum, died of altitude sickness at Tukla (4,000 m). He was sent by the Department of Tourism as a liaison officer for a two-member Everest expedition led by Spanish climber Alex Txikon (35).

Rai breathed his last while being airlifted to Nicole Niquille Hospital in Lukla for treatment, according to Mingma Sherpa, Managing Director at Seven Summit Treks.

“We had sent a rescue helicopter to Tukla within ten minutes after hearing his critical condition,” he added.

Climbing Sherpas also helped him descend to Tukla area from Lobuche after he complained of altitude symptoms.

Rai, a permanent resident of Bhojpur* district in eastern Nepal, took four days to trek to Lobuche from Lukla, he added.

According to Sherpa, Alex and Carlos Rubio (28) - have now been acclimatising at base camp after they reached Camp I and II in the last few days. The Spaniards would try to climb the world’s highest peak without supplemental oxygen this winter while only Nepali mountaineer Ang Rita Sherpa made it to the top without O2 in 1987, he added.

Rai’s body is being airlifted to Kathmandu for postmortem, according to Seven Summit Treks.

DoT’s Director General Jaya Narayan Acharya said that DoT would decide on further steps only after receiving the postmortem report.

“We will try to find other options to monitor the expedition’s activities following the incident,” he said.

According to the country’s Tourism Act a mountaineering expedition team shall cause the lives of liaison Officers, Sardars, mountain-guides, base-camp-workers and altitude workers to be insured with a prescribed insurer for a prescribed sum of its own cost against the risk of personal accident before engaging them. “The mountaineering expedition team shall insure, from the insurance company as recognised by the government, of the liaison officer Rs 800,000,” it adds.

A liaison officer also charges each expedition nearly USD 3,000 for Mt Everest.

Climbers often complain that most of the LOs fail to monitor the expedition as they never reached base camp of the respective mountains. Besides officials are being sent to mountain areas without proper training and medical check up.

*Corrected: Earlier, Rai's home district was mistakenly mentioned as Khotang.