28-year-old Singaporean man dies from acute altitude sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro

Wallace Woon
The Straits Times
Aug 13, 2023

A 28-year-old Singaporean man has died after suffering from acute altitude sickness during an attempt to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

In a Facebook post on Saturday at 3.41am, Expedition group Adventures Unlimited said that one of its team members, Mr Darrel Phee, lost his life during the expedition.

It is not known when Mr Phee died, but the expedition was scheduled to take place from Aug 3 to 11.

Adventures Unlimited said in the post that Mr Phee and other members of the team had their oxygen levels and heart rate monitored daily, and were also checked for symptoms of altitude sickness.

“Darrel’s readings and symptoms had been normal throughout the days of the hike,” the post said. “However, on the morning of the summit hike, his oxygen levels dropped and his heart rate increased. As per safety protocol, it was decided that he would abort the climb and descend with a guide.”

Mr Phee was monitored closely at the campsite, Adventures Unlimited added.

It said: “Unfortunately, due to the onset of altitude sickness, and its serious health complications, his condition deteriorated and he passed away. The cause of death indicated asphyxia/Hape.”

High-altitude pulmonary oedema, or Hape, occurs when excess fluid is produced in the body’s lungs, causing breathlessness or fatigue. The condition can be fatal.

In its post, Adventures Unlimited said instances of fatalities on Mount Kilimanjaro are rare – less than 1 per cent of climbers. However, it added that factors such as high altitude, extreme weather conditions, the climber’s physical condition and the physical challenges of the climb can contribute to deaths.

Adventures Unlimited said: “This is a challenging period for Mr Phee’s family and our primary focus is on aiding the family in this difficult time.”

It also said that it “remains committed to transparency and accountability to our participants”.

In a statement issued on Sunday morning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs extended its condolences to Mr Phee’s family and said that it has been extending consular assistance and support to them.

At 5,895m above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in the African continent and a popular hiking and climbing destination. About 30,000 people each year try and reach the summit of Kilimanjaro – a dormant volcano – with recorded fatalities ranging between three and 10 a year, said Kilimanjaro National Parks on its website.

ST has reached out to Adventures Unlimited for more information.

This is the second mountaineering tragedy involving a Singaporean in 2023.

In May, Mr Shrinivas Sainis Dattatraya, 39, went missing after summiting Mount Everest, considered the world’s highest mountain at 8,849m. He had told his wife in a phone call that he was suffering from high-altitude cerebral oedema (Hace) and would not be able to make it down the mountain.

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