Aussie collapses and dies trekking Kokoda
THE increasingly popular Kokoda Track pilgrimage has claimed the life of an Australian man, who collapsed and died on a mountain despite his mates? attempts to save him.
The gruelling 96km track had become a popular destination for Australians keen to relive the heroics of Australia?s wartime diggers.
In the first death of a tourist on the track in recent memory, 35-year-old Victorian Ian Andrew Bergman died two days into the trek, which crosses rugged terrain in the Owen Stanley Range. A post mortem was to be held yesterday in Port Moresby.
An outwardly healthy Bergman was walking the track from the Owers? Corner end with friends last Wednesday when he became dizzy and collapsed, a police spokesman said yesterday.
Kokoda Trail Authority chief executive officer Warren Bartlett said Bergman, of Blackburn in Melbourne, was walking behind a couple of his mates when he collapsed late in the day.
?A porter rushed up to say he was having trouble on the mountain.?
His friends rushed back but could not revive him. A helicopter airlifted Bergman?s body out the following day.
Gail Thomas, who runs the trekking company Bergman was travelling with, said he appeared to have died of natural causes and all were shocked by his death, including the local trekking guides. ?It?s obviously very sad for all of us and the boys are pretty choked up, he didn?t fall off any mountain, he just collapsed,? she said.
The Kokoda Track was made famous by Australian diggers who fought off Japanese troops trying to cross the mountains to capture Port Moresby in 1942.
Nearly 1,500 people had walked the track so far this year, compared with 2,354 last year - most of them Australians.
In April alone, 730 people walked the track. Some, like the federal minister for human services Joe Hockey and opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, timed their journey to coincide with Anzac Day.
But hot humid days, intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and endemic tropical diseases can make Kokoda a challenge.
?All trekkers are supposed to have a fairly thorough medical done by their doctor,? Bartlett said.
?It?s a very strenuous exercise to walk over the track so anyone with a heart condition should not walk it. It should only be recommended for fit and energetic people.?
Anyone who had a heart attack would be unlikely to get out alive, given the isolation of the track.
Walkers usually take six to nine days to cross the many high ridges on the route.
Part of the challenge is the track?s gruelling nature and the chance to understand a little of the hardship Australian soldiers faced in 1942.
Thomas said Bergman?s father Ian told her by phone from Australia that his son had trained for four months for the trek and was so excited he hadn?t stopped talking about it during that time.
A medical evacuation consultant in Port Moresby said it should be mandatory for trekking companies to require doctors? certificates from clients planning to walk the track.
?In a lot of cases, we don?t believe there?s enough information being given about the level of fitness needed,? Medivac Pacific Services consultant Brad Bailey said. ? AAP