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Saturday, August 25, 2001

Blame it on no one but Ellie, says father (Sabah)

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."

Source: The Star

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