Race driver Gugu Zulu, who died while trying to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, was not well after complaining about an itchy throat a few days before the summit could begin, team medical doctor Roxanne Schutte said on Wednesday.
“We were at the hotel on Thursday morning and he looked at me. I asked him if he was okay, he said he had a scratchy throat that started moments earlier. I told him to take some throat lozenges, some vitamin C and see if we could get rid of it quickly. We then started walking, at the camp at night I asked him how he was feeling, and he said he was okay and that the lozenges were working,” Schutte said at press briefing held by the Nelson Mandela Foundation at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Schutte said a day went by and Zulu did not mention anything to her. The following evening he told her his sinuses were sore. Zulu “was a bit off”, she said.
“I had some sinus medication with me. I told him to take some and painkillers and told him I would check him the following morning. He just looked a bit off, he was not his normal happy self…I could see he was taking strain.”
The team would practice by walking at least nine kilometres and in altitude to prepare for the expedition on Monday.
“He said on Sunday if I gave him something for energy he would be able to summit. I suggested we put him on a drip, put energy supplements in the drip and antioxidants and I would check on him again and see if he would be able to climb.”
She was called to see him an hour later after he vomited. He told her that he was feeling nauseous. She gave him medication for the nausea and told him to rest for the climb.
“That was Sunday, the summit night. I heard a lot of shouting and screaming at around 8pm. I was in the room next to Gugu, and I got out of bed and went to him. He had rusty breathing…he was unconscious and had a strong pulse. I shouted to get a stretcher to get him to hospital.”
Zulu was in a critical condition and unconscious but stable when he was taken to hospital. She said she expected him to feel better after leaving and moving away from high altitude.
“When you go down from the altitude you become better, that is what I expected. When we heard the following day that Gugu had passed, we were all shocked…he wasn’t ill. He had mild symptoms that most of the people in the group had because of [the] high altitude…scratchy throat, blocked nose…we walked kilometres on dusty roads — that was expected,” Schutte said.
“Now we have to wait for the results of the post-mortem to find out the actual cause of death. Any speculation now, is just nothing but speculation.”
Zulu, 38, was a veteran racing driver and television presenter affectionately known as “the fastest brother in Africa”. His wife Letshego Zulu, also an adventurer and fitness fanatic, was part of the expedition as well.
He is survived by Letshego and their one-year-old daughter, Lelethu. – African News Agency (ANA)