Jason Kennison from Australia died while descending Mt Everest on Friday, May 19, 2023. The 40-year-old had learned to walk again following a devastating car crash in 2006 when an overtaking truck clipped the front of his vehicle, which left him with several broken bones and severe spinal cord injuries. Doctors had told him that he would never walk again, but Jason overcame this prognosis and long periods of depression following the accident. Jason was climbing Everest to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries and much-needed funds to help others in a similar situation.
Jason reached the top of Mt Everest on Friday with two Sherpa guides from the climbing company ‘Asian Trekking.’ On the descent from the South Summit, the guides noticed that he was showing abnormal behavior and brought him to the Balcony area, where he collapsed and refused to move with the Sherpa guides. “They ran out of oxygen, and bringing supplement bottles from ‘Camp IV’ couldn’t be possible due to excessive winds,” Dawa Steven Sherpa, director of Asian Trekking, said. His two guides returned to ‘Camp IV’ without any harm. It appears that Jason succumbed to a severe altitude sickness, which often afflicts climbers on descent in what is referred to as the ‘death zone,’ where oxygen levels are dangerously low.
“On behalf of everyone at Spinal Cord Injuries Australia we want to share our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Jason. We were beyond shocked to hear the news of his passing whilst undertaking such an incredibly inspiring feat. He was a shining example of overcoming the odds and Jason showcased incredible tenacity and determination in everything he set his mind to. Jason was an amazing man and we are so honoured that he chose to support our organisation. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Jason is the tenth confirmed death on Mt Everest this climbing season. American doctor Jonathan Sugarman, 69, died during his acclimatization rotation at Camp II on May 01 this year. Two climbers are still missing above the high camps. Deaf and mute Malaysian Hawari Bin Hashim, 33, had gone missing since May 18, when he arrived at Camp IV from the summit point, while Shrinivas Sainis Dattatraya, an Indian Singaporean climber, went missing from 8,500m on Mt Everest.
During this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Jason’s grieving family was told it was too dangerous to retrieve his body. A memorial service will likely be held in the family’s hometown Mallala, near Adelaide, South Australia.