The Nepali government has been accused of a “cover-up” after a Royal Navy scientist from South London died in April 2011 during a trek with friends in the Himalayas.
Rachel Burke, 28, was six days into the three-week trek when she began suffering altitude sickness on the way to the Mount Everest base camp. Ms Burke is said to have been so weak she was barely able to tie her bootlaces.
But instead of being taken to a health post just 12 minutes away she was led on a 10-hour trek back down to the base of the mountain. She died hours later with her death certificate saying that Ms Burke died due to an underlying heart condition.
On Saturday Ms Burke’s parents – who launched a three year campaign to bring the case to a UK coroner’s court – accused the Nepalese government of “covering up” the cause of her death to protect the country’s lucrative tourism industry.
At an inquest at Southwark coroner’s court, Dr Andrew Harris found Miss Burke died from altitude sickness.
Her father Steven Burke, 60, a retired patent lawyer, told the Evening Standard: “For a long time we thought she had died of heart disease primarily and we even got lots of people donating to the British Heart Foundation, but that was a complete red herring and quite possibly made up.
“The Nepal government don’t want people to think that if you go there you could die of altitude sickness. They don’t want the bad publicity.”
Miss Burke’s mother Maureen, 58, issued a desperate plea for information after her daughter’s death in April 2011, and was contacted by several witnesses from America.
Their accounts differed from the one given by the Adventure Company, which organised the trip.
Mrs Burke said: “The stories I was being told by the Adventure Company kept getting longer and longer and there was no substance to it?…?Without other people intervening I would not have known what happened.”
The coroner accused Sussex-based Adventure Company of neglect.
Dr Harris said: “Sending Rachel down the mountain with a guide who didn’t have those skills was found by Dr Nicholas Mason to be a factor contributing to her death and I accept that.”
A spokesman for the Adventure Company said it has changed its itinerary, and will continue to review its processes.