A veteran Massachusetts newspaperman died following a 50-foot fall on Maine’s tallest mountain during an excursion with his nephew, his son said.
Donald MacGillis, a 74-year-old from Pittsfield who spent decades working as a journalist, died Wednesday after falling while hiking with his nephew, Paul MacGillis, on Mount Katahdin in Maine, where the pair encountered heavy fog and rain upon setting out on the Knife’s Edge trail Tuesday, the Berkshire Eagle reported.
MacGillis, the newspaper’s former executive editor and a onetime Boston Globe editorial writer, was airlifted along with his nephew by rescuers early Wednesday. They were told hours earlier to shelter in place upon calling 911 as temperatures plummeted below freezing, according to the report.
“They were literally worried about being blown off the mountain,” MacGillis’ son, Alec, told the newspaper.
The former longtime journalist suffered chest injuries and a broken leg in the fall, which occurred at about 3 a.m. Wednesday as he stood up and stepped away from the trail. He and his nephew were rescued some seven hours later, but MacGillis died from his injuries at a hospital in Bangor, his son said.
“Paul was extraordinary and kept him going throughout the night,” Alec MacGillis told the newspaper. “It was just heroic.”
MacGillis climbed the mountain every year with a hiking group and was eager to make the trip up the 5,269-foot mountain — Maine’s tallest peak — with his nephew, whose father died when he was just 5.
“You could hear the light in his voice,” Alec MacGillis said, recalling his father’s excitement prior to the outing. “There’s a beautiful photo of them beaming as they set out on the hike.”
MacGillis was in critical condition and had hypothermia when he was rescued. His nephew, who was not hurt, was also hypothermic but was released from a hospital later Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported.
Alec MacGillis, who works as a journalist for ProPublica, announced his father’s death Thursday on Twitter, saying the “consummate local/metro newsman” had been his role model.
MacGillis retired in 2012 after serving as the Globe’s national political editor. He joined the paper in 1995 as an editorial writer after a two-decade career at the Berkshire Eagle, where he became the paper’s executive editor in 1992.
“MacGillis regarded journalism as the noblest of professions,” said the Eagle’s executive editor, Kevin Moran. “A newsman through and through, he loved breaking the news and demanded that journalists dig deep and investigate and report sides of the story the public wasn’t getting.”
MacGillis is survived by his wife, Ingrid, as well as his son, Alec, and daughter, Lucy, the Globe reported.
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