British tourist, 56, dies of suspected heart attack on Mount Vesuvius amid Italy heatwave

A 56-year-old British man reportedly died of a suspected heart attack while hiking on Mount Vesuvius during a family holiday in Italy.

Mark John Irwin, who was travelling with his wife and two children, collapsed at the summit of the volcano.

Despite efforts by local guides using a defibrillator for 40 minutes, he could not be revived. He had undergone heart surgery two or three months prior, according to his wife.

“We are assisting the family of a British man who died in Italy and are in contact with the local authorities,” the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said.

Irwin’s death coincided with a severe heatwave affecting southern Europe, where temperatures reached up to 40C in recent days.

Paolo Cappelli, a local mountain guide association president, told The Telegraph: “He was right up at the summit when he collapsed. His wife told us that he had had an operation on his heart two or three months ago. We think he may have had a heart attack.

“It’s very sad. It is pretty rare for this to happen on Vesuvius. We have one death every one or two years, which is not much considering the fact that about 3,000 people climb to the top of the volcano each day.”

Heatwave in Europe has also resulted in the deaths of six tourists in Greece, with ongoing searches for three missing people on the Greek islands.

Michael Mosley, a TV presenter and health expert, passed away earlier this month on the Greek island of Symi. He was found dead after embarking on a solitary walk during high temperatures.

Several parts of Europe, including Greece, Italy, the Canary Islands, Spain, Turkey, and Cyprus, are experiencing unusually hot weather and heatwaves.

Studies have reported that 61,000 people died due to Europe’s record-breaking heatwave in 2023.

William Spencer, climate and first aid product manager at the British Red Cross, warned that “heatwaves are becoming more frequent and getting worse because of climate change”.

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and getting worse because of climate change (AFP via Getty Images)
Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and getting worse because of climate change (AFP via Getty Images)

He added: “Sadly, we have seen cases already this year of the tragic impact high temperatures can have on human life.

“High temperatures make it harder for the body to cool itself and we all need to take care to manage the health risks of heat. If you are travelling to a country experiencing extreme heat, there are several steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe.”

“This heatwave will go down in history,” meteorologist Panos Giannopoulos told the Greek state television channel, ERT.

“In the 20th century, we never had a heatwave before 19 June. We have had several in the 21st century, but none before 15 June.”