Heavy snowfall kills four on Everest
RAW VISION: Four people, including an Australian tourist, are killed in an avalanche after heavy snowfall hits Mount Everest.PT0M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vnev 620 349 October 17, 2013
An Australian man who died after being trapped in snow for six hours following an avalanche on Mount Everest has been hailed as a hero.
Dean Higgins, of Adelaide, was trekking in Tibet with his wife and two others when the fatal avalanche struck on Monday.
Julie Mahony, a family friend who has been in contact with Mr Higgins' wife, told the ABC that Mr Higgins spent hours working to free others who had become trapped.
Dean and Wendy Higgins
"They were under the snow for about six hours and Dean dug them out of the snow," Ms Mahony said.
"They had to get down the mountain to safety and that took approximately eight hours.
"We're not exactly sure what happened, but he was alive until they got down the bottom."
On Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed the death of the 60-year-old man.
A DFAT spokesperson said consular officials in Beijing were in contact with Mr Higgins' wife, Wendy, who runs a Mortgage Choice franchise in the Adelaide suburb of Glenelg.
Messages of condolence flood the business' Facebook page on Thursday morning, with friends and strangers describing Mr Higgins as a "hero" for his work in freeing those trapped in the avalanche.
Mortgage Choice chief executive Michael Russell said Mr Higgins was a “beautiful man” who loved his wife and daughter, Sara.
"He was very dignified and had a great sense of humour," he said.
"We're absolutely devastated as a group and it's been a very numb and painful day for everyone in the organisation."
Mr Russell said the couple were trekking in Tibet with two friends.
Details are continuing to emerge of the conditions which led to Mr Higgin's death.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, Mr Higgin's tour group had entered a restricted area on the foot of the mountain and camped out on Sunday night (local time).
The group of 10, which included three herders who acted as porters, two cooks and a tour guide, encountered an avalanche.
The three local herders also died during the tragedy, the agency reported.
Sharon Cohrs, an Australian tour guide who runs treks to Everest Base Camp, said conditions could change rapidly in the area around Everest, which often makes setting up overnight camps a dangerous task.
"A lot of things come into play," she said.
Ms Cohrs said the area had always been "quite" safe, with stomach bugs generally posing a bigger danger to trekkers than mountain elements.