A father-of-three businessman died after attempting to achieve his ‘lifelong ambition’ of climbing Mount Everest, an inquest today heard.
Adventure-enthusiast Sheldon Marshal, 64, fell from a horse on his way to Everest Base camp – around halfway up the world’s tallest mountain.
Rescuers airlifted the entrepreneur back down the mountain and to hospital in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu.
However, he died on December 17, 2017, after suffering internal bleeding and a collapsed lung, an inquest in the UK heard.
Amateur adventurer Sheldon Marshal, 64, fell from a horse on his way to Everest Base camp – around halfway up the world’s tallest mountain
Mount Everest: The world’s tallest mountain – above sea level
Located in the Himalayan mountain range in Asia, Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain above sea level.
Standing at more than 29,000ft, Mount Everest’s summit point runs along the China/Nepal border.
The summit is reachable through two main climbing routes, one approaching from Nepal, and the other from Tibet.
New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hilary and Nepalese-Indian Sherpa Tenzing Norgay are widely regarded as the first to reach the peak of Everest in 1953.
Since then, it has become an increasingly popular goal to reach the mountain’s summit.
However, it can be dangerous. The first base camp alone is located around 17,000ft above sea level.
And it gets increasingly dangerous from there, with altitude sickness, weather, wind, avalanches and the Khumbu Ice Fall for explorers to face.
As of 2019, around 300 people are thought to have died on Everest.
Despite it’s fame, Everest is actually not the world’s tallest mountain.
That honour belongs to Mauna Kea, a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii which raises 33,000ft from base to peak.
However, a significant proportion is under water – which is why Mount Everest is often thought to be the world’s tallest mountain.
The coroner was told how picture agency boss, Mr Marshall, was in the ‘best shape of his life’ after losing three stone ahead of his Everest trip.
But while attempting to climb the path to Everest Base Camp on horseback, he fell from the saddle and damaged his ribs on the stony track.
Mr Marshall was airlifted via an emergency helicopter back down the mountain, but it was found he was suffering from lung difficulties and altitude sickness.
Doctors in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu believed he was suffering from a fungal infection in his blood, the inquest heard.
While numerous attempts were made to bring him to the UK via an air ambulance, the inquest heard medical teams were not satisfied he would be able to survive the trip as his condition kept fluctuating.
Staff in Nepal also reportedly wanted to send him to Bangkok in Thailand, but the family were insistent that he be returned to the UK, the inquest heard.
The family said they felt frustrated when their insurance company ‘avoided the policy’ when they say it became apparent that Mr Marshall needed an air ambulance.
Mr Marshall had booked the trip and Mayday insurance through Exodus Travels.
But the insurance company claims Mr Marshall failed to declare all of his medical conditions – including asthma – before he booked.
Eventually, his son paid for an air ambulance to take his dad to the nearer location of New Delhi in India where doctors attempted to save his life.
However he later died in hospital.
Surrey Coroner’s Court heard he struggled with the acclimatisation walks and allowed his son, James, and the rest of his group, to hike ahead of him while he was accompanied by a Nepalese porter.
The inquest heard the family had travelled to Kathmandu on 4 November with the intention to climb the mountain and return back to the UK on 19 November.
His son, James Marshall, giving evidence in court, said that his dad had fallen slightly behind on the way to Tyengboche – about two-thirds of the way up to Everest Base Camp.
The coroner was told how picture agency boss, Mr Marshall (pictured), was in the ‘best shape of his life’ after losing three stone ahead of his Everest trip
But he was unable to meet up with the group in Dughla for lunch and from there paid £140 in order to hire a horse to take him to Lobuche.
James said: ‘On Saturday 11th November he felt fine at breakfast, but after 90 minutes started to feel very tired and quite fatigued and wanted to have a rest.
‘We said that we would continue to a place called Dughla for lunch and wait for him to meet us there.
‘He had a porter, named Purba, who was staying with him to make sure he got where he needed to go.
‘I asked Sheldon if he wanted me to stay with him but he said he wanted to catch his breath and go out at his own pace and not hold up the group.
‘I saw him again at 6pm in Lobuche when he arrived on a horse, which was very surprising.
‘At that time he was very excited to finish the day but he told me that he was feeling very tired and had a fall when trying to get on the horse.’
James said his father, who had previously climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, had ‘been in the best shape of his life – he spent a year training specifically for the trek.’
He added: ‘He told me very clearly he fell as he got on the horse the first time.
‘He said that the saddle had slipped off and they had to reattach it or tighten it underneath.’
But when Mr Marshall arrived that evening at Lobuche, his condition worsened.
Mr Marshall was airlifted via an emergency helicopter back down the mountain, but it was found he was suffering from lung difficulties and altitude sickness
James said a guide named Shailesh told Mr Marshall that he was not in a fit state to continue the climb, to which he agreed and asked to be taken down by rescue helicopter which he paid for with his credit card.
He said the guide Purba went with him as he was able to speak the language to arrange transport.
He said: ‘He looked very pale. He was finding it difficult to speak. We were putting blankets around him and we thought he needed more serious attention.
‘He arrived as it was getting dark and helicopters only operate in the day.
‘He basically was saying he felt very tired, he couldn’t walk any more, that he had pain in his ribs.
‘He was excited to get transportation off the mountain. He just said he was exhausted.’
When James said he returned to Kathmandu on 17 November, he learned medical teams had said Mr Marshall could not make the commercial flight home even with the accompaniment of a paramedic.
While Mr Marshall was staying in CIWEC hospital, a very small hospital where he was the only patient in ICU, there were issues regarding when and how he would be moved, the inquest heard.
The family contacted Tyrol Air Ambulance, via their insurance company Mayday, to bring their loved one to a larger facility.
James said: ‘[The doctors] were telling me that the UK is where we need to get him effectively. If that’s not available, we should go for Bangkok or New Delhi.
‘My mother was keen for him to get to the UK and I relayed this information as well.
‘The UK had all of the facilities while New Delhi would have some and Bangkok would have some, and he would likely have to be moved anyway.
‘They said getting back to the UK would be best where he has access to everything.
‘We thought let’s get him back in one go to the UK, as it was one extra evening in hospital.’
Medical teams however felt uncomfortable guaranteeing Mr Marshall’s ability to fly to the UK.
Ross Marshall, another son, said he then became ‘suspicious’ when Mayday insurance requested his dad’s medical records, the inquest heard.
He said: ‘I said to my mum that they’re going to try and avoid paying for an air ambulance.
When James said he returned to Kathmandu (pictured: Library image) on 17 November, he learned medical teams had said Mr Marshall could not make the commercial flight home even with the accompaniment of a paramedic
‘It seemed strange that a man had been in hospital for so long and as soon as he needs extra help there is an issue.
‘I’m aware commercial air ambulances are very expensive and agents in this space have to mitigate costs.
‘On 2 December, we were told they weren’t going to cover him for any of the costs and we would have to find the funds to repatriate him.’
He said a day later, after he said he ‘applied pressure’ through his contacts, the policy was reinstated the next day.
Ross, who runs travel companies, said he went to New Delhi with his mother and arranged for Capital Air Ambulance to take him to India.
He said: ‘When Dad arrived I believed he had a haemothorax on the way over, they had to get his lung to re-expand again. It was very much a case of stabilising him.
‘[In India it was a] total disaster. The doctor was very honest when we first moved to New Delhi.
‘Given the time he spent in Kathmandu, it was high-risk. [Acute respiratory distress syndrome] kills 40 percent of people and we needed to be prepared for the worst.
‘It was a salvage operation.’
He said that while there was an attempt to take him to Dubai, a doctor had to manually inflate his father’s lung.
But when it became clear Mr Marshall could not fly, he was returned to a hospital in India where he went to cardiac arrest and died on 17 December 2017.
In a statement from the family, they said: ‘Sheldon, who always had an adventurous streak, suffered unusual respiratory complications that he sadly did not recover from whilst fulfilling a lifelong ambition of climbing Mount Everest in Nepal.
‘Sheldon is survived by wife Anne and sons Ross, Alex and James. He will be missed greatly by all who knew him but will never be forgotten.’
Mr Marshall’s career spanned over 40 years where he was a well-known figure in the photographic industry, including when he became the CEO of Visual Communications Group.
Under his leadership, the company grew to be the second-largest provider of global stock images and was initially sold to United News and Media plc and then on to Getty Images for £160million.
The inquest into his death continues.
Source: Daily Mail UK