A renowned adventurer said the family of an Irish man who lost his life on the world’s highest mountain are never far from his thoughts as he marks the first anniversary of his death.
Séamus ‘Shay’ Lawless, 39 from Bray, Co Wicklow died just hours after summiting Mount Everest on May 16, last year.
Mr Lawless, a professor of artificial intelligence at Trinity College Dublin was fulfilling his life-long dream when he fell up to 500 metres during his descent from an altitude of 8,300m, in an area known as the balcony.
It was his ambition to climb Everest before he would have turned 40 two months later in July.
Northern Irish adventurer Noel Hanna, who has summited Mt Everest eight times and Guinness World Record for Maxtrek, which is the equivalent of going from sea level to the height of Mt Everest (8,848m) and back to sea level in 21 hours and 50 minutes, was leading the climb when tragedy struck.
Marking the first anniversary of the father-of-one’s today death Mr Hanna said: “I am thinking about his family at this sad time. He died carrying out his childhood dream.” Mr Lawless’s wife Pamela was expecting their second child at the time of his death.
Mr Lawless attempted the mammoth climb to raise up to €25,000 for Barretstown, a charity dedicated to seriously ill children and their families.
An unsuccessful search was launched in a bid to find the popular professor but it was eventually called off after more than €200,000 was raised by the public to fund it.
The expedition and search teams were led by Mr Hanna, from Seven Summits Treks.
In a tribute to Mr Lawless, his Trinity College Dublin colleagues, created a YouTube video in his honour, where they said: “Shay was a rising research star in the School of Computer Science and Statistics and at the ADAPT Centre and was a valued member of the Trinity community.
“His research and scholarship have helped transform the boundaries of the discipline and his legacy will be seen for years to come through the inspirational projects he worked on.”
Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History and Director of Trinity Long Room Hub added: “Through his intellect and his personality he not only captured our imaginations and our intellects but he also captured out hearts.
“What I found with Shay is that he had this remarkable capacity to listen… We were so privileged, when I look back, to have that relationship with him. We do miss him. There wouldn’t be a day that goes by where we wouldn’t think about him.
“He was a phenomenal educator, a phenomenal researcher and a phenomenal human being.”
Two other Irish men died last year while attempting hugely challenging climbs, Galway man Kevin Hynes died on May 24, after he had descended several hundred metres from Mt Everest and Kildare native Alan Mahon, passed away on Russia’s Mt Elbrus.
Mr Hanna, also a trained body guard and former police officer, previously said: “From the moment I was told that Shay was missing I knew that if we didn’t find him within an hour he had very little chance of surviving.
“I just knew within that hour of not finding him it was going to be a recovery (search for his remains) operation.
“The expedition had gone like clock work up until we started to come down after spending 10 minutes at the Summit. There were no issues with weather at that stage. We had replaced the empty oxygen tanks with full ones and Shay displayed no signs of confusion, from the possibility of him suffering with altitude sickness, at the area known at the balcony at 8,300m.”
After spending three days recovering at Base Camp, Mr Hanna took part in the recovery operation flying back up by helicopter to a number of the Camps. Mr Lawless’ rug-sack, crampons, goggles and broken oxygen mask were found but his remains still remain on the Himalayas.
Mr Hanna added: “We spent hours and hours searching for Shay but from where we found his rug-sack we were able to pinpoint where he may fallen to but could not find his remains.
“Shay was in unbelievable form on Everest laughing and singing and in a way solace can be taken from that. Everything slotted into place for him until he fell.”
Mr Lawless’ family were forced to fundraise for the search and recovery operation due to what they claimed were issues with the insurance policy he had taken out.