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

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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)

7 thoughts on “Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)

  1. drizad Post author

    Hi Ben,

    That’s the only and latest death on Mount Kinabalu that I know. I don’t know about the previous death, as the data maybe confidential to the Sabah Park Authority. I will try to look for the other from Sabah Park…

  2. drizad

    Yes, she went up there with her brother and parent. But she is the one who was unfortunate. Wait for the serial news! 😉

  3. Ell

    Thanks for posting and spreading the word about Ellie. It’s important that people know
    the dangers of trekking. Ellie was an accomplished climber, but even she lost her way.
    I went to college with Ellie, and she was a wonderful girl with such a free spirit. I’m
    honoured to have known her, even if it was only for a year.

  4. bebek

    everyone including the guides themselves who climb mount kinabalu, must strictly adhere to the dos and donts and the local custom. Failure of doing so may result in tragedies as to what happened to Ellie James, the 1991 case – 2 sarawakians missing till now and the 1994 case – British commandos from Hong Kong lost at the Low’s Gully… few years ago, i read about a mountain guide who fell into a slope, despite having climbed the mountain hundreds of times… this happened because he reportedly, took a leak (pee) not in the designated place (the toilet) but rather at the summit trail.. we need to adhere not only the modern rules but traditional rules… ask Datuk Tengku Zainal Adlin who himself climbed Mt Kinabalu hundreds of times… he experienced many2 super natural happenings while at the foot, middle or top of mt kinabalu… for safety, stay close with your guides… never ever overtake your guide… and be humble, not boastful, Mount Kinabalu is a legend…

  5. Pingback: very sad news-Searchers retrieve two bodies from Mt Kinabalu after quake, more expected - Page 22 -

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