The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA cheerleader dies on Mt. Everest

Morgan Boisson

Morgan Boisson, a UA senior and member of the cheerleading team, stood 6’6” inches with a size 16 shoe. Family and friends remember his crushing bear hugs, or how he would laugh until he was completely red in the face.

Boisson, an East Asian Studies major, died Oct. 20 near a Mount Everest base camp in Tibet while on trip with group of UA students studying abroad in China.

His mother, Elizabeth Boisson, said her son suffered from a fatal case of severe altitude sickness after driving from 11,000 feet to nearly 18,000 feet in less than two days.

He was 20 years old, but Boisson’s mother said the world traveler and high school football standout made the most of his life.

“”I feel that Morgan lived more in his 20 years than a lot of people live in a 100 years,”” his mother said. “”It’s not hard to talk about Morgan, because I really don’t want him to be forgotten.””

Boisson was born in Montpellier, France. Even though he spoke little English when his family moved to the U.S. in the third grade, Elizabeth Boisson said her son made friends quickly.

“”He was totally all inclusive in his friendships,”” his mother said. “”I don’t know of anyone who was an enemy to Morgan.””

Throughout his life, that never changed. UA sophomore Hanna Huckin, who spent the summer in Paris with Boisson during a UA-sponsored study program, wrote in an e-mail that, “”He was almost everyone’s first friend on the trip.””

“”And he immediately befriended bartenders within days,”” she wrote. “”We were raised to VIP status.””

Boisson loved had a lifelong love of sports, earning a black belt in Tae Kwan Do at the age of 11, and lettering in track and fototball at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek.

He went out for the UA cheerleading team his after some classmates talked him into it.

At first Boisson was reluctant, but after one workout, he fell in love with the sport.

“”He tried it for two hours and said it was harder than any football practice,”” his mother said.

Phoebe Chalk, associate athletics director and adviser to the cheerleading and mascots program, said the cheerleaders were glad to have the sturdy Boisson to catch them after a stunt.

“”He just grabbed you in that big bear hug,”” she said.

The UA cheerleading program was “”shocked,”” by the news, Chalk said.

“”It’s hard when it’s a lot of young people going through that first loss of a friend,”” she said. “”But having the team around, being able to laugh about Morgan and tell stories. That’s been really helpful this week.””

Boisson planned to return to cheerleading after studying abroad in Nanjing this semester.

The team plans to wear black patches with his intials on their uniforms for the rest of the semester. He will also be honored at a candlelight vigil following the Homecoming bonfire, Chalk said.

Boisson loved traveling and spent his sophomore year in China before deciding to spend this semester in Nanjing with the Yangtze International Study Abroad program, his mother said.

Boisson’s group of about 13 UA students planned a 10-day sidetrip to Tibet, but could only get six days off of school.

Elizabeth Boisson said the group flew to Lhasa, on the Tibetan border, where they obtained special tourist VISAS and boarded a bus that would take them across the Tibetan highlands to see the base of Mount Everest.

Lhasa is at about 11,000 feet. Elizabeth Boisson said the group traveled to the base camp at about 18,000 feet in less than two days.

Boisson’s friends told his family he went to bed early on Oct. 19, at about 7:30 p.m. He didn’t eat dinner.

Throughout the night, several of the students saw Boisson walking around, disoriented, calling out to people by different names before falling asleep again.

When his friends tried to wake him at about 7:30 a.m., he was having difficulty breathing and not responsive, foaming at the mouth -  all symptoms of severe altitude sickness.

The group tried to get him down the mountain quickly, but the road was too rough and bumpy, Elizabeth Boisson said.

Partway through the trip, Boisson lost a pulse. A member of the party administered CPR, but it was too late.

“”The kids tried their best to save him,”” his mother said. “”They did everything they could.””

Before Boisson died, his mother said one of the students was able to get a cell phone signal and put the phone against his ear.

“”I don’t know if he heard me,”” she said.

Boisson’s father is in China this week to bring his son home

Elizabeth Boisson said one of her son’s friends picked up a stone from the roadside where her son died, and that his father will bring it home to the funeral.

She said she takes comfort in knowing her son passed away in one of the most beautiful places in the world, surrounded by the friends he cherished.

Elizabeth Boisson said the family is establishing a scholarship in her son’s name at Cactus Shadows High School.

A candelight vigil will be held in remembrance of Morgan Boisson after the Homecoming Bonfire at about 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 6, on the north side of McKale Center.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Nov. 8 at Highlands Church, 9050 East Pinnacle Peak, Scottsdale, AZ. In lieu of flowers, the Boisson family asks that contributions be made to a scholarship fund in his name, Morgan Boisson, Chase Bank account number 000000752438754.

More to Discover
Activate Search