After surviving a devastating car crash and being told he would never walk again, an Australian climber dedicated years of preparation for a Mt. Everest trek. Tragically, he lost his life during the expedition.
On Friday, Jason Bernard Kennison, a 40-year-old resident of Perth, tragically passed away after becoming unresponsive at the summit.
This year, his unfortunate demise marks the tenth recorded fatality on the world's highest mountain.
In 2006, Mr. Kennison miraculously survived a catastrophic car crash when a road train collided with the vehicle he was traveling in on his way to work.
During an interview with 7News earlier this month, he recounted, 'The next thing, I woke up in hospital with glass getting picked out of my hair, out of my back."
As a result of the crash, the mechanic suffered several injuries including a broken femur, a dislocated shoulder, and a brain hemorrhage, among others.
"I didn't want to accept that there was anything permanently wrong, physically wrong, mentally wrong," he said.
"I dealt with it probably in a default mode, which was to ignore a lot of the signs and just push through physically."
"Looking back, I was ticking boxes just to get back to work and just to seem normal."
The incident compelled Mr. Kennison to undergo the arduous process of learning how to walk once more. However, years later, he experienced additional spinal nerve damage, exacerbating his condition.
Despite the challenges he faced, he remained resolute in his pursuit of climbing Mt. Everest, driven by his goal to raise funds for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.
A video captured him undertaking the treacherous journey merely two weeks prior to his unfortunate demise.
In the footage, Mr. Kennison is visible persistently traversing through deep snow and ascending the mountainside alongside his fellow climbers.
The climbers find themselves enveloped by a dense fog, significantly impairing their visibility and obscuring the mountain surroundings.
Weeks prior to his ascent, he shared a captivating snapshot on his Instagram profile, revealing the breathtaking vista from Camp 2 on the mountain.
After successfully reaching the summit on Friday, Mr. Kennison was safely escorted down to the Balcony area, as confirmed by Dawa Steven Sherpa, the head of Asian Trekking.
"Since the oxygen cylinders that they had with them were running out, they decided to descend to Camp 4 hoping to climb back again with oxygen cylinders to rescue him," he told AFP.
"It was high wind and bad weather that prevented them (from) going back to bring him down. He died at the Balcony area."
At approximately 8400m, the Balcony serves as a compact resting platform for climbers to take a break during their ascent.
In a heartbreaking Facebook post, the family of Mr. Kennison shared the devastating news of his untimely demise.
"It is with absolute broken hearts that our dearly beloved brother, son, cousin, friend sadly passed away on Friday 19th [of May] climbing Mt Everest," the post read.
"He achieved his goal of reaching the peak … he stood on top of the world but sadly didn't come home. He was the most courageous, adventurous human we knew."
Recently surfaced text exchanges between Mr. Kennison and a close friend have shed light on the challenging circumstances that the passionate climber was facing. These messages reveal the struggles he was encountering amidst adverse conditions.
'It's been a rough and tough year of prep, let alone a few weeks here with the rotations, so now comes the final run when and if the weather allows like you say..." he wrote.
When inquired about witnessing a photograph captured at the summit of the mountain, Mr. Kennison replied: "Within the next 4 weeks hopefully mate."
The passing of Mr. Kennison is a poignant moment, marked by a mix of sorrow and triumph, as he managed to overcome his injuries from the accident and accomplish one of his lifelong aspirations.
7News shared footage capturing Mr. Kennison's remarkable recovery journey, documenting his inspiring progress as he relearned to walk and triumphed over various minor obstacles along the way.
During his training for a race, unfortunate circumstances led to Mr. Kennison experiencing a broken collarbone as a result of a motorbike crash.
"Each injury seemed to chip a little bit away at my confidence," he recalled.
"It chipped away at my self-esteem bit by bit until I was really cautious about what people would think of me."
A few years ago, while kicking a football, he encountered intense back pain.
Through medical examination, it was revealed that a ligament in his back had become entangled between the disc and the nerve, resulting from past accidents he had experienced.
To address the issue, the outdoorsman underwent a procedure aimed at extracting the entangled ligament to create more space and realign the displaced disc.
While undergoing the procedure, Mr. Kennison encountered multiple instances of falling over. Subsequently, he experienced a loss of sensation in his right leg, temporarily impeding his ability to walk.
Eventually, he returned to the gym with a determined focus on rehabilitation. However, he faced considerable mental and physical challenges, as the nerve damage left him with diminished strength and resilience.
"I didn't want these injuries to define me," he said.
"I needed to start owning my own destiny."
After being inspired by documentaries featuring mountaineers, Mr. Kennison found himself driven to pursue climbing as a passion.
"It had all the characters, all the traits of what I used to do when I had motocross, when I used to play footy, when I was growing up until it was chipped away from all these accidents," he said.
In preparation for the monumental climb, he enrolled in mountaineering courses to undergo comprehensive training and skill development.
His narrative served as a profound inspiration to viewers nationwide, capturing the attention of Australians who eagerly followed his journey to Mount Everest.
Among non-Nepalis, Mr. Kennison's unfortunate passing on the mountain marks the sixth fatality, contributing to a total of ten deaths in 2023.
Tragically, within the previous week, the mountain claimed the lives of four individuals, including a Chinese man who fell while attempting to reach the summit and an Indian woman who lost her life last Thursday.
Furthermore, a Moldovan man succumbed to illness on Wednesday, while a Sherpa tragically lost his life during the descent from the mountain on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, the mountain claimed the life of 69-year-old US mountaineer Jonathan Reuel Sugarman, who tragically fell ill during his expedition. Additionally, three Nepali climbers lost their lives in April as well.
The number of fatalities on Mount Everest has seen a notable increase this year, contrasting with the three deaths recorded during the entire climbing season of 2022.
According to Nepal's tourism department, close to 450 climbers have successfully scaled Mount Everest during this season.