‘Remarkable’ London-born Israeli dies after fatal fall at Ecuador volcano

Gil Banks died after injuring himself when attempting to scale the Rucu Pichincha volcano near Quito on Sunday


London-born Israeli Gil Banks, 25, died on Sunday after a fall while trying to scale the Rucu Pichincha volcano in Ecuador.

Banks was born in London to parents Steve Banks, originally from Glasgow, and Shelley, from Edgware, north London. He grew up near Glasgow, Scotland, but his family emigrated to Caesarea in Israel 13 years ago.

It is understood Gil had been travelling around South America after finishing his national service in an elite unit of the Israeli army, according to the Daily Record.

The Israeli Embassy in Ecuador confirmed his death in a statement this week, expressing their sadness and condolences for his passing, and confirming that they were assisting Banks' family.

The statement, translated from Spanish, read: “The Embassy of Israel in Ecuador regrets the death of young Israeli Gil Banks, who suffered a fall while trying to climb the Rucu Pichincha volcano, located in Quito-Ecuador, on Sunday, August 14.

“The embassy is carrying out the necessary procedure following the death of the 25-year-old Israeli. We express our solidarity for this sensitive loss and extend our most sincere condolences to family and friends.”

Tributes have flooded in from devastated family and friends, who described him as a “remarkable” man with a “big friendly heart to all who knew him”.

Triathlon coach Eduardo Finkelstein said: "No words to describe and my condolences to the family. Gil Banks started out in triathlon at The Buttons (Caesarea) where I was the Triathlon Head Coach and I remember with his wild red hair, great smile and an extraordinary runner.

"Gil and I had something a lot in common at the time, neither of us spoke Hebrew very well and we always managed to find a funny and interesting way to understand each other. (He also helped me with my English.)

“You have my deepest sympathy and unwavering support. Wishing you peace, comfort, courage and lots of love at this time of sorrow. My heart goes out to you at this difficult time.”

Friend and neighbour Michael Sapir described Banks as a “remarkable young man”, adding that he was “an incredible athlete. Smart and ambitious. Warm and generous with a big friendly heart to all who knew him”.

Childhood friend Oz Hochman described Banks as “a perfect and loving friend”, adding: “It was a great honour and fun for me to be part of his journey that was supposed to end completely differently.

“I can't believe I'm separating from you but, on the other hand, I know that experiences with you will accompany me until the end of the world.”

The Rucu Pichincha summit reaches an altitude of 15,413ft (4,698m), with the first recorded ascent of the higher peak, Guagua Pichincha (15,696ft/4,784m), in 1582 by a group of locals.

The volcano is active, and it last erupted in 1998, which saw Quito city covered by a layer of ash that was several inches thick. A major eruption also took place in 1660, with 12 inches of ash falling.

The mountain was considered sacred by indigenous people, and its southern slopes were the site of the Battle of Pichincha in 1822 in the Spanish-American wars of independence.

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