LATEST: Sir Edmund Hillary, who became a national hero when he was the first man to climb Mt Everest, has died.
Sir Edmund Hillary, who was born in Auckland on July 20, 1919, died aged 88 at Auckland City Hospital at 9am today, the Auckland District Health Board said.
The New Zealand flag will be flown at half-mast on all Government and public buildings from today until midnight Saturday to mark Sir Ed’s death. Flags will also be flown at half-mast on the day of his funeral, the date of which is to be confirmed.
Announcing Sir Ed’s death, Prime Minister Helen Clark said his passing was a profound loss to New Zealand.
“My thoughts are with Lady Hillary, Sir Edmund’s children, wider family, and close friends at this sad time,” Miss Clark said.
Miss Clark said Sir Ed always described himself as an average New Zealander.
“In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only knocked off Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.”
Sir Ed’s 1953 ascent of Mt Everest brought him world-wide fame and Miss Clark said the legendary mountaineer was the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived.
“But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi. He was ours – from his craggy appearance and laconic style to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing.”
Miss Clark said Sir Ed had not basked idly in celebrity, drawing on his international prestige to highlight issues and values which he held dear.
She paid tribute to Sir Ed’s humanitarian work with the Sherpa people of the Himalayas.
He established the Himalayan Trust in the early 1960s and worked tirelessly until his death to raise funds and build schools and hospitals in the mountains.
” The legacy of Sir Edmund Hillary will live on. His exploits continue to inspire new generations of New Zealanders, as they have for more than half a century already,” Miss Clark said.
New Zealand’s cricket team will wear black arm bands and observe a minute’s silence along with the crowd before play starts on day one of the second test against Bangladesh at the Basin Reserve in Wellington tomorrow.
– with NZPA