California hiker among 4 Americans dead on Mount Everest

AP News
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Posted: Apr 28, 2015 6:12 PM
California hiker among 4 Americans dead on Mount Everest

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Vinh Truong was the type of man who meticulously planned everything he did. Whether it be a meal out in San Francisco, a ski trip to Lake Tahoe or the adventure of a lifetime — a two-week hiking trip to the Himalayas to climb Mount Everest.

The Northern California man had planned the trip for a decade and was among the four Americans killed in the avalanche unleashed by a powerful earthquake in Nepal.

"I hope the world knows that he was a man of action," his friend Michelle Fennessy said. "There are very few people who say, 'I'm going to do that' and then do. I knew he had always wanted to (climb Everest). At least he got there, and I can't help but think that he was right where he wanted to be."

On Monday, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Truong, of Sunnyvale, California, was among the Americans killed at the hikers' mountain base camp in Saturday's avalanche. The official death toll from the disaster has soared past 4,000 people, though that number is expected to climb significantly.

The 48-year-old was an outdoorsman who enjoyed running, river rafting and paragliding, but most of all hiking, said Fennessy, who met Truong 10 years ago while both were studying at the University of Chicago.

Though Truong worked in data systems for Kaiser Permanente in California and Fennessy is an assistant professor of nursing at Ohio State University, the two met regularly for dinner in San Francisco when Fennessy traveled for her job.

They both loved the outdoors, good food and wine, and she was drawn to Truong's quirky sense of humor.

"He would be the kind of guy who would take pictures of his food," she said. "He was so meticulous about everything."

Fennessy said he wrote online reviews for every restaurant he ever visited and tracked every hike he ever took.

"If it involved any adrenaline or something outdoors, he'd done it," she said. "He was truly the ultimate outdoorsman. He knew every trail known to man. Every weekend I could go to his (Facebook) page and I knew he was skiing in Lake Tahoe or out hiking somewhere."

So it made sense that she followed his trip on Facebook, where he posted frequent updates about his journey.

"I knew when he got there. He was checking in all the time. When he got to the Dubai airport, when he went to Kathmandu, when he went to a coffee shop, he checked in," she said. "When we didn't hear anything form him, it was troublesome. This was a man who was always on."

Fennessy said she tried to reach him after the earthquake. When she didn't hear anything, she knew his fate, she said.

Eighteen people were killed by gusts of wind that blasted through Everest's base camp during the avalanche.

Truong went on the trip with four people from a local hiking group, but he was separated from them at the time of the disaster. They were not injured, Fennessy said.

The State Department has identified the other American as Thomas Ely Taplin, 61, of Evergreen, Colorado. He was working on a documentary about the community of climbers at the base camp and had been there only a short time when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck, his wife, Cory Freyer, said Monday.

The other two Americans haven't been officially named yet

However, Google has said that one of its executives, Dan Fredinburg, 33, died on Everest on Saturday. And Seattle-based Madison Mountaineering has said that Marisa Eve Girawong also died in the avalanche. The 28-year-old from Edison, New Jersey, was working as a physician assistant with a climbing team.

All the U.S. citizens were killed at the Mount Everest base camp, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.

"It's just exhausting to think about what a loss this is for all of us," Fennessy said of Truong's death.

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Associated Press writer Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane, Washington, contributed to this report.