Author Archives: drizad

About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)gmail.com

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Final Part): Ellie’s family fly home with her ashes

Sunday, August 26, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: The family of British schoolgirl Ellie James, 17, who died on Mount Kinabalu flew home with her ashes early yesterday.

Her parents, Bruce and Claire, and brothers Thomas, 19, and Henry, 15, left the state capital on a 6am flight on their way back to Britain.

They were seen carrying a small tajau, a locally made ceramic jar, containing the ashes of Ellie who was cremated on Friday.

The family from Cornwall, England, was scheduled to hold a memorial service for Ellie when they reach home.

Another ceremony will be held in Germany where her parents are based.

Ellie’s body was recovered on Aug 22 near the summit plateau of Mount Kinabalu. She and Henry lost their way in the thick fog while descending from the mountain’s highest point, Low’s Peak during the early morning hours on Aug 16.

Their parents raised the alarm when the two siblings failed to return to the Laban Rata resthouse near the summit by 10am and park rangers immediately conducted a search for them.

Henry was found six hours later near St John’s Peak where his sister had apparently left him so that she could seek help, but she was never seen alive again.

A post mortem at the Queen Elizabeth hospital here showed that Ellie died from prolonged exposure to the sub zero temperatures near the mountain summit.

Her family has set up a memorial fund to help among others the people of Kampung Kiau Nulu at the foothills of the mountain and to provide equipment for the mountain guides of Mount Kinabalu.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 7): Family of British girl who died on Kinabalu to cremate her

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 8): Sabah Parks rangers and guides have CM’s support
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 9): Blame it on no one but Ellie, says father

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 9): Blame it on no one but Ellie, says father

Saturday, August 25, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: British teenager Ellie James who died on Mount Kinabalu was cremated here yesterday as her grieving father told the British media that no one was to be blamed for the accident.

The family bade an emotional farewell to the 17-year-old schoolgirl during a special prayer conducted by Anglican priest Rev Chak Sen Fen at the Fook Liew Siew Funeral Parlour at Jalan Tuaran.

Present at the 11.15am ceremony were her father Bruce James, 54, mother Claire, 49, brothers Henry, 15, and Thomas who works as an instructor with the Outward Bound School in Kinarut.

Ellie, who went missing on Mount Kinabalu on Aug 16 while descending the 4,095m Low’s peak with her family, was found sprawled on a 60« slope about 500m below the St John’s Peak on Wednesday.

“Ellie was a true child of nature and was as happy in Cornwall, where we used to live, as she was in Sabah,” said Bruce.

“She was extremely taken in with the local Dusuns and their efforts to preserve their land and their heritage.”

Bruce told the London based Daily Telegraph that no one should be blamed but Ellie herself.

Dismissing claims that the local Dusun guides may have acted irresponsibly, he told the newspaper that “people are always looking for scapegoats but the only scapegoat here is Ellie for bravery which could, in retrospect, be interpreted as recklessness.”

He said his daughter and son Henry got lost on the Low’s trail when they headed straight instead of following the rope which shows ‘left’.

Henry was found by searchers six hours later.

“People get lost on Dartmoor. They get lost on the Brecon Beacons. It’s just an awful, awful accident. Nobody is to be blamed,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Bruce said he last saw Ellie and Henry near Low’s Peak at 6.15am on Aug 16.

“They were so pleased to see me and had said ‘Oh dad, you made it.’ I said I would follow them down.”

They decided to go ahead to relate their achievement to their mother Claire who did not make the final assault to the summit as she had sprained her ankle.

“But they took the wrong turn. Henry keeps talking to himself on how he missed the turning. The white rope is visible even in thick fog. But the fact is they did it and it was a fatal mistake,” said Bruce.

The two siblings later realised that they were lost. Ellie then built a shelter out of lumps of granite and they huddled together as it was getting very wet and windy.

At about 12.30pm, Bruce said Ellie told Henry she was going to get help.

“What happened (to Ellie) after that is speculation.”

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 7): Family of British girl who died on Kinabalu to cremate her

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 8): Sabah Parks rangers and guides have CM’s support

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 8): Sabah Parks rangers and guides have CM’s support

Friday, August 24, 2001
By Jaswinder Kaur

Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat today stood firm behind Sabah Parks rangers and guides who were involved in the search and rescue operation for Briton Ellie James, 17.

Elaborating on claims that Sabah Parks had delayed search and rescue operations soon after Ellie was reported missing last Thursday morning, Chong said the rangers were well trained and were experienced.

He said there was no need for anyone to query why Sabah Parks sought help from the Special Malaysia Rescue Team (SMART) several days after Ellie went missing.

“We will not seek immediate help (from SMART). We have sufficient manpower (from Sabah Parks) who are experienced and trained. We know when to ask for further help,” he told newsmen after visiting the Likas Sports Complex area, today.

Ellie was found dead by rangers at a 65 degree slope close to St John’s Peak yesterday, a week after she went missing.

The Chief Minister also said those who climbed Mount Kinabalu did so on a voluntary basis.

He said before making the ascent, climbers were already aware of what to expect.

“Climbers have to follow rules set by the Sabah Parks,” he said.

To another question, he said there was no need for others to make comparisons on how safe it was to climb Mount Kinabalu with other destinations.

The BBC had in a report claimed that it was unsafe to climb Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest in South East Asia.

Meanwhile, statistics show that at least 30,000 people climb the mountain every year.

A check at Kinabalu Park also revealed that local and foreign tourists were still keen to climb the mountain, despite Ellie’s death.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 7): Family of British girl who died on Kinabalu to cremate her

Resource: New Straits Times

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 7): Family of British girl who died on Kinabalu to cremate her

Friday, August 24, 2001

By Muguntan Vanar and Ruben Sario

KOTA KINABALU: British schoolgirl Ellie James, 17, who died after she went missing on Mount Kinabalu a week ago, will be cremated at a private crematorium here today.

The family’s locally appointed undertakers claimed the body at 2.30pm yesterday after a post-mortem was conducted by pathologist Dr Jessie Hiu at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here.

Ellie’s body was kept at the Fook Liew Siew funeral parlour at Jalan Tuaran here.

A memorial service will be held at 9am today before her body is taken to the crematorium in Likas.

Her parents Bruce James, 54, and Claire, 49, together with brothers Henry and Thomas are expected to fly home with the ashes.

Ellie James body

SOMBRE MOOD… Ellie’s body being wheeled into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital mortuary by Yayasan Sabah paramedics, Wednesday night, where a post mortem was believed to have been conducted overnight.


The family is originally from Cornwall in the Britain and have been residing in Germany.Ellie, who trekked up the mountain with her family, had gone missing with Henry while descending Low’s Peak on Aug 16. Henry was found near St John’s peak about six hours later.

Dr Hiu said she was preparing the post-mortem report on the cause of death but declined to give details, saying that the report would be submitted to the hospital’s director Datin Dr Rahimah Said.

Ranau district police chief Asst Supt Dzulbaharin Ismail said police have not received the report, adding that investigations were in progress.

Sources say it was likely that Ellie had died of hypothermia caused by prolonged exposure to the very cold conditions near the summit of the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu.

The sources say apart from bruises, Ellie did not suffer any broken bones and appeared to have been dead for at least three to four days before searchers found her body sprawled on a 60« slope about 500m below St John’s Peak on Wednesday.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers

Friday, August 24, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: The parents of British teenager Ellie James, who died on Mount Kinabalu, has set up a memorial fund aimed at benefiting voluntary organisations and also the people of a village on the foothills of the mountain.

Ellie’s family, in a statement to the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, said: “Ellie spent her last days with the villagers of Kampung Kiau Nulu and was particularly moved by their commitment towards preserving the rainforest and learning about the medicinal properties of plants.”

Apart from the people of Kampung Kiau Nulu, the donations would be distributed evenly to the Dianne Fossey Gorilla Fund, Care for the Wild, Amnesty International and The Big Issue.

Ellie’s parents Bruce James, 54, Claire, 49, brothers Henry, 15, and Thomas, an instructor with the Outward Bound School, described her as a “remarkable girl.”

“She lived her life to the full and achieved more in her 17-and-a-half years then most people do in 75 (years). She was brave, intelligent and beautiful.

“Her life was a campaign for justice and freedom. If her death inspires other people to stand up and be counted, her life would not be in vain,” they said in a statement, the first since she went missing on Aug 16 on the mountain.

Her body was found by Sabah Parks rangers on Wednesday and brought down to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here for a post-mortem.

The family, from Cornwall, but residing in Germany, thanked the people of Kiau Nulu for their hospitality, support and commitment in the search for Ellie.

“The mountain guides and national park wardens have risked their own lives in searching for Ellie,” they said in the statement.

On Wednesday night, the family went to the mortuary to identify Ellie’s body.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu

This is the fifth day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 5: Thursday, August 23, 2001
By Muguntan Vanar and Ruben Sario

KOTA KINABALU: British schoolgirl Ellie James, who went missing on Aug 16, was found dead yesterday just below St John’s peak, the second highest point of Mount Kinabalu, about 4,090m above sea level.

Sabah Parks rangers and mountain guides located the body about 500m below the peak on some rocks.

Ellie, 16, was found sprawled face down with visible bruises on her hands on the rocky surface of the summit’s plateau, Ranau district police chief Asst Supt Dzulbaharin Ismail said.

However, searchers only managed to retrieve her body from the slopes after the poor weather conditions on the plateau cleared around 2pm before taking it back to Laban Rata (3,272m) at 5pm.

Park rangers carried down the body and handed it over to Ranau police who took it to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here by Yayasan Sabah ambulance late last night for a postmortem.

Ellie’s distraught family had been keeping vigil at a resort in Kota Kinabalu since she went missing while descending from the 4,095m Low’s Peak with them.

GRIEVING PARENTS
GRIEVING PARENTS…Ellie’s father Bruce James and her mother (being consoled by a nurse) arriving at the Kota Kinabalu Queen Elizabeth Hospital mortuary last night to identify her body.–STARpic by NORMIMIE DIUN.

Her father Bruce James, 54, mother Claire, 49, brothers Henry, 15, and Thomas, who works as an instructor with the Outward Bound School at Kinarut here, have refused to meet the media.

Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat personally conveyed the state government’s condolences to the family at a hotel yesterday.

Describing the incident as “sad and unfortunate” Chong said that James understood the problems faced by the searchers who were bogged down by harsh weather conditions.

“We thank all those involved in the search operation. They had worked very hard,” he added.

No one has been able to immediately ascertain as to how Ellie had died.

Yesterday, ASP Dzulbaharin declined to say whether Ellie had fallen to her death or succumbed to exposure to the cold, sometimes near sub-zero temperatures.

“We have to wait for the postmortem results,” he said.

ASP Dzulbaharin said the body would be handed over to the family after the postmortem, adding that it would be up to them to decide what to do next.

According to rangers, Ellie, from Cornwall in Britain, had apparently strayed about a kilometer from the Low’s Peak trail used by some 30,000 people annually to climb the mountain.

Ellie and her brother Henry lost their way in thick fog and strong winds while descending from Low’s Peak last Thursday morning. Their parents raised the alarm on seeing that they had not returned to the Laban Rata Rest House by 10am that day.

An immediate search was launched by the Sabah Parks rangers who found Henry six hours later near St John’s Peak where his sister had apparently left him to seek for help.

However, bad weather conditions bogged down the search.

ASP Dzulbaharin said Ellie’s body was found about 500m from where Henry was found.

Ellie and her family were among a tour group of 12 people who scaled Low’s Peak.

With weather improving since late Monday, the SMART team, police general operations force, firemen and army special forces joined rangers, local Dusun guides and villagers to scour the two-square kilometer mountain plateau and also the western forested slopes.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray

This is the fourth day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 4: Thursday, August 23, 2001

MOUNT KINABALU: A team of mountain rescuers today found the body of British teenager Ellie James, who had been missing for a week on Mount Kinabalu.

The 17-year-old disappeared in the mist while descending from the 13,455-foot mountain with her family and a 15-member climbing party last Thursday.

“We offer our condolences to the family as we tried our best this past week to find her, only to find her body,” said Ranau police chief Zul Baharin Ismail.

He said Sabah Park Rangers found the body at 10.21 a.m near St John’s peak where she went missing.

“The park rangers have searched the same area in the past few days but could not spot the body in the bad weather,” Zul Baharin said.

Graphis presentation where Ellie’s body was found

Click to enlarge

Her body was lying on a steep rock slope at around 4,000 metres (13,000 feet), but only 500 metres from where her brother Henry was rescued within hours of them both going missing.

It was not immediately clear if she had died from a fall or from exposure.

“We are in the process of retrieving the body which is located at a 55 degree incline slope,” the police chief told a news conference. “It’s quite difficult to retrieve the body due to bad weather conditions.”

The search for Ellie had been hampered by the worst weather to hit the area in a decade, although visibility today was better than at any time in the past week.

Temperatures high on the mountain drop below freezing at night, while high winds and sheet rain make conditions even more treacherous.

Ellie’s parents, who were also on the hike, had been told of their daughter’s death as they waited in Kota Kinabalu. Father Bruce, 54, and mother Claire, 49, had asked for privacy during the past week’s ordeal.

Hopes of finding Ellie had risen yesterday when the weather began clearing and searchers discovered footprints, a makeshift shelter and a piece of plastic tied to a tree.

The tracks appeared to be fresh and left as late as Monday night, but it now seems certain it was a false trail, being much lower down the mountain than where her body was found. Local guides had already doubted her chances and feared “spirits” had lured Ellie astray.

Bad weather can also turn a relatively easy trek into a perilous battle for survival.

Eighteen British soldiers were lost for a month on Kinabalu in 1994. The harrowing story of their survival was subsequently made into a film.

Two climbers from Sarawak went missing in 1991 and were never found again.

Resource: Borneo Post Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive

This is the third day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 3: Wednesday, August 22, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: Teams scaling through slippery footpaths in the jungle terrain of Mount Kinabalu are keeping their hopes alive of finding missing 16-year-old British schoolgirl Ellie James.
Some of the local team members believe that they have spotted Ellie’s footprints yesterday. She went missing on Aug 16.

As the search entered its sixth day, with the SMART team and General Operations Force personnel joining in to widen the search area, rescuers believe they might have stumbled on branches that were used as a “floor mat” by Ellie in a forested area at the 3,000m level.

SAR team looking for Ellie

SEARCH CONTINUES … General Operations Force personnel moving into the Paka Caves area of Mount Kinabalu Tuesday to search for Ellie.

“We believe the branches were left by the missing girl. We believe she is still alive. We don’t know what her condition is,” said Ranau district police chief Asst Supt Dzulbaharin Ismail yesterday.

He believed that Ellie could have wandered from the 4,095m summit plateau area where she went missing and headed towards the thick forested area on the western face near Kampung Kiau.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl

This is the second day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 2: Tuesday, August 21, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: Strong winds, thick fog and heavy rain continue to hamper the search for Ellie James near the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

Some 50 rescuers, comprising Sabah Park rangers, soldiers, policemen, firemen, villagers and other volunteers, were unable to do much on Sunday and most of yesterday due to the bad weather.

Officials said they were hoping that the weather would clear by yesterday evening for them to conduct an overnight search for the 16-year-old schoolgirl from Cornwall, Britain.

“The girl has not been found yet. The search and rescue effort is still on,” Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai said yesterday.

Medical officials are worried about Ellie’s physical condition.

She went missing last Thursday near St John’s Peak of the 4,095m-high mountain.

A doctor here said that although Ellie was wearing warm clothes, prolonged exposure to near sub-zero temperatures at night and the absence of food would weaken her.

A group of 30 soldiers are carrying out the search near Kampung Kiau at the foot of the mountain.

Part 1: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)

Ellie JamesNot many people know about tragedies that happened on Mount Kinabalu. Death happens on Borneo’s majestic mountain, the latest was in August 2001. As this month would be exactly 6 years since the event, I would like to dedicate a serial news excerpt from our local newspaper, The Star which reported the incident. Ellie James, a 16 years old girl from Cornwall, England, was found dead by the search and rescue team, when she was lost during the climbing.

This will the the first of 10 news from The Star archive, which will be written in chronological order. I will post one news each day, and this week will be a tribute from Kinabalu Blog to Ellie James.

Part 1: Monday, August 20, 2001
Rescuers racing against time to locate British schoolgirl (Sabah)

KOTA KINABALU: Rescuers are racing against time to locate 16-year-old Ellie James, who went missing near the summit of Mount Kinabalu since Thursday, as they remain bogged down by bad weather.

They are counting on the ingenuity of the British schoolgirl for her survival while heavy rain and winds of more than 100kph, caused by the tail of Typhoon Pabuk in the Philippines, continue to lash the 4,095m-high mountain.

Rescue teams covering nearly two square kilometres of the summit’s plateau have yet to find any new leads to the whereabouts of Ellie, who is from Cornwall, England.

“It’s been very frustrating. The weather is not with us … our teams are having difficulty with the poor visibility and strong winds,” said state Assistant Tourism, Environment, Science and Technology Minister Datuk Karim Bujang.

He said that in the last 36 hours, rescue teams comprising park rangers, guides and villagers had made little progress in their search for Ellie while seven rescuers from the fire department had also joined them near the summit yesterday.

Helicopters from the RMAF and Sabah Air are also on standby to carry out aerial searches but so far, they have not been able to make any trips due to the weather conditions, Karim said.

Resource: The Star Archive