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CMU grad’s mission to supply fire trucks to Nepal a top priority

Bob Bauder
PTRearthquake01051315jpg
Nate Smallwood | Trib Total Media
Medical supplies destined for Nepal await shipping in the Brother's Brother Foundation warehouse, on Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

Michael Kobold has enlisted movie actors and mountain climbers in a quest to take firetrucks to Nepal's earthquake-devastated capital of Kathmandu, which has two.

Kobold, 36, said Nepal's second earthquake in two weeks Tuesday serves as a deadly example of why the developing nation needs emergency equipment.

“That's the heartbreaking thing,” said Kobold, owner of Kobold Expedition Tools, a watch and knife manufacturing company based in Volant in Lawrence County, with a facility in Robinson. “It's just so frustrating. The last two and a half weeks, I've slept on average two and a half hours. I sort of wish I had got the expedition off sooner.”

Kobold has been working for more than four years to outfit Kathmandu with firetrucks and emergency equipment. The city had five worn-out trucks until the first earthquake hit April 25 and destroyed three of them.

A second quake struck early Tuesday, causing widespread damage and killing dozens.

Humanitarian relief agencies in the region are mobilizing to deliver disaster aid.

Luke L. Hingson, president of North Side-based Brother's Brother Foundation, said a medical team with supplies arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday morning just after the earthquake hit.

“We're supporting up to five medical teams in Nepal with medical supplies,” he said.

Kobold has a personal stake in the country.

Two Sherpas saved his wife, Anita, in 2010 when she went into respiratory distress as they were climbing Mt. Everest. A doctor on the climb pronounced her dead, but the Sherpas revived her with steroids and adrenaline.

Kobold has been working to repay the life-saving deed ever since.

The Carnegie Mellon University graduate trained the two guides to be watchmakers and put them in charge of a factory in Nepal. It was destroyed in the first quake.

He established the Soarway Foundation with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a polar explorer and mountain climber whom the Guinness Book of World Records dubbed the “greatest living explorer;” Scott H. DeLisi, former U.S. ambassador to Nepal; English actor Malcolm McDowell; and others.

The foundation has two purposes: deliver emergency equipment and build an earthquake-proof firehouse; and help rebuild Nepalese historic sites damaged in the first quake to revive tourism.

The Kathmandu Fire Truck Expedition is scheduled to arrive in December after a 700-mile trip from Calcutta through the Himalayas.

Kobold said he conceived of the expedition more than four years ago to attract publicity to Nepal's plight.

Fire departments from across the country, including Clarion and South Brownsville, have donated 10 used trucks, he said.

Pittsburgh is considering donating decommissioned equipment, said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.

“Really there is a need for firetrucks in Kathmandu, but we wanted to make this much more about the risk of an earthquake,” Kobold said. “The reason that we did that was to raise awareness of the earthquakes. Now we're doing it to raise awareness of how Nepal can be rebuilt.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or [email protected].

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