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October 2013 - Dawa Gyalgen Sherpa

In the early hours of the morning of 26 September, at home in UK, I heard the first news reports of a helicopter accident at Lukla airport in the Khumbu region of Nepal.

More news emerged during the next few hours and days and I called Nepal to confirm that the passengers were Sherpa people that I know - Lhakpa Sonam and his wife Anita escaped with minor injuries but Dawa Gyalgen was seriously injured. Treatment was given at the hospital in Lukla and then he was transferred to hospital in Kathmandu. His injuries were severe and he died eight days later on 04 October. I learnt of his death only after I arrived in Nepal, after two days of travelling, on 06 October.

I have known Dawa Gyalgen and his wife Yangji and their children from the first visit I made to Nepal in 1991 - Dawa and Yangji manage the Mera Lodge in Lukla and from that first visit to date they have looked after all the needs of my clients, staff and myself over what is now 22 years. Their friendship to me personally is difficult to put into words, the attention to all the needs in Lukla of everyone associated with Nepal Trekking, and to me personally exemplifies the Sherpa People and shows how they accepted me into their community so many years ago.

Over the years Dawa Gyalgen and Yangji have developed Mera Lodge into one of the leading hotels in Lukla - the gateway to Everest - and their reputation is well known, not only in Nepal but in many other countries also. For many years Dawa Gyalgen has also been working with domestic airlines. To date he was managing the day to day running of Yeti Airlines and their sister company Tara Air at Kathmandu domestic terminal and at Lukla.

Since my arrival in Nepal I have been able to attend a Puja (Sherpa ceremony) at their house in Kathmandu, meeting with Yangji and expressing my sincere condolences, her son Nima was there but their two daughters are outside of Nepal and not able to be present on this most sad occasion. Another Puja will take place at a Monastery in Boudha Kathmandu and, following Sherpa Cultural Tradition, on the 49th day after his death the final Puja will be in Lukla.

Dawa Gyalgen will be missed by many. Throughout the time I have known him he has set high standards in the Sherpa Community and elsewhere. My sincere condolences go to Yangji and all the family members at this time

Denis Gallagher
Nepal Trekking
October 2013