Expat banker dies in fall while hiking on Hong Kong’s remote Basalt Island

·4-min read

An expatriate banker with investment bank Goldman Sachs has died after a fall while hiking on a remote, inhabited island in waters off eastern Hong Kong.

The man, Mark Spitzer, 38, was walking along the coast of Basalt Island, off Sai Kung district, with a male friend and a family of six, three adults and three children, on Thursday.

He fell three metres to a spot near the sea while his friend, 49, was also injured in a rescue attempt. A report was made to emergency services at about 2.30pm, with the caller saying the six others were stranded on a rocky area.

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A government helicopter airlifted the man to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan where he was pronounced dead.

Basalt Island is also known for its sea arches and sea caves. Photo: Cameron Dueck
Basalt Island is also known for its sea arches and sea caves. Photo: Cameron Dueck

His friend, who suffered cuts to his limbs, was taken to a marine police base and then by ambulance to Tseung Kwan O Hospital. No one in the family was hurt and they were airlifted to the base, police said.

The eight had shared a boat for their visit to the island in the morning.

Police were investigating and a postmortem examination would be conducted to find out the cause of the man’s death.

Spitzer, who was promoted to managing director at Goldman Sachs last November, led the bank’s equities derivatives sales team for the Asia-Pacific region, the Post learned.

“We are deeply saddened by this sudden and terrible loss,” a spokesman of the investment bank said. “Our immediate focus is supporting Mark’s family and close colleagues during this difficult time.”

Veteran mountaineer Chung Kin-man said the barren island, which has badly eroded geological features, could only be reached by private boat. Loose rocks could result in hikers having accidents.

It was the second hiking-related death this week. On Sunday, a hiker was killed and another left fighting for her life after the pair fell more than 10 metres at the scenic Wong Lung Stream on Lantau Island.

The islands in the Ung Kong Group have some impressive features including hexagonal columns of rock. Photo: AFCD
The islands in the Ung Kong Group have some impressive features including hexagonal columns of rock. Photo: AFCD

Basalt Island, which is part of the Hong Kong Unesco Global Geopark and at its highest point measures 174 metres, has no tourist facilities. It is part of the Ung Kong Group, which also includes Wang Chau and Bluff Island. The islands are also known for their sea caves and sea arches.

The authorities suggested visitors look at the island from a boat and avoid going ashore because of absence of tourist facilities including piers.

The island was also the scene of Hong Kong’s first – and worst – airline accident 70 years ago. A China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) Douglas DC-4 Skymaster from Shanghai crashed into Basalt Island during a foggy approach to the then Kai Tak airport on December 21, 1948. All 35 passengers and crew on board were killed.

Among the fatalities was American-operated CNAC’s Shanghai-based vice-president, Quentin Roosevelt II. The 29-year-old was a grandson of former US president Theodore Roosevelt.

Another notable casualty was Paul Yung, also known as Rong Yixin, elder brother of the future vice-president of China and founder of Citic Group, Rong Yiren.

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