Sir Edmund Hillary dead at 88

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary in Poland in 2004.
Image: Mariusz Kubik.

New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary died of a heart attack at the Auckland City Hospital at 9 a.m. NZDT (UTC+13) today. He was 88.

On May 29, 1953, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to attain the summit of Mount Everest, the tallest peak on earth.

Hillary was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire as well as a Knight of the Order of the Garter, and a charter member of the Order of New Zealand. He was awarded honorary citizenship of Nepal in 2003 for his humanitarian work for the people of Nepal.

Sir Edmund's death has been noted by the placement of flags at half-mast at the New Zealand parliament and at Scott Base in Antarctica.

Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, said Sir Edmund was not just another New Zealander like he had wanted to believe but, "a colossus."

Ms. Clark said, "He was an heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility and generosity."

Queen Elizabeth of the UK said the she was "very saddened" by the death of Sir Edmund.

Hillary was in the hospital at the time of his death but was expected to come home that day according to his family.

Sir Edmund Hillary after accompanying first plane to land at the Marble Point, Antarctica ground air strip in 1957.

"The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived. But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi. He was ours - from his craggy appearance and laconic style to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing," Ms. Clark said.

A state funeral will be held for Hillary following an offer from the New Zealand Government.

He was born Edmund Percival Hillary on July 20, 1919. His first wife, Louise, and one of their three children, Belinda, died in a plane crash in 1975 while helping with Hillary's philanthropic work. Sir Edmund is survived by his second wife, Lady June Mulgrew, and the other children from his first marriage, Peter and Sarah.


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