MOUNT KILIMANJARO, Tanzania, July 18 (UPI) — South African race car driver Gugu Zulu died Monday while trying to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Zulu, 38, had gone to Kilimanjaro with his wife, Letshego, and other celebrities for their “Keep a Girl Child in School” as part of giving back for this year’s Nelson Mandela Day. They were part of a team called Trek4Mandela and money raised would buy sanitary napkins for needy girls.
In Zulu’s post on his Twitter on Friday he complained of flu-like symptoms:
“Made it though (sic) day2. My wife is doing fabulous, she has even learnt the local language. Am having flu like symptoms and struggling with the mountain but taking it step by step!!
Today we managed to see our destination and our camp is literary above the clouds!!”
Nelson Mandela Foundation Director of Communications Neeran Naidoo said in a statement: “Details are sketchy. What we do know is that Gugu experienced problems breathing. The medical team supporting the trek put him on a drip and they descended the mountain with him. We are informed that the medical teams tried everything possible to save his life.”
The 46 South Africans were due to summit Kilimanjaro on Monday for Mandela Day. They began their trek on Friday.
Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang said in a statement, “I am devastated. I knew him well. I recruited him to climb Kilimanjaro. The last thing he said to me at the airport before he left last week was that he wanted to speak about doing other Mandela Day projects. I feel a huge sense of loss.”
Zulu won the SA National Rally Class Championships in 2007, 2009 and 2010, and also the Vodacom Isondo Sports 2000 national championship.
Zuliu and his wife, a reality star, were known as an “adventure couple.” Their daughter, Lelethu, celebrated her first birthday earlier this year.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world, rising 16,001 feet from its base to 19,341 feet above sea level.
A study, headed by Andrew J. Davies, of people attempting to reach the summit in July and August 2005 found that 77 percent experienced acute mountain sickness.
More than 30,000 attempt to climb the mountain each year with three-quarters reaching the summit, according to Livescience.
Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller were the first to climb the mountain in 1889.