University of Pennsylvania Student Dies in Rock-Climbing Accident in Africa

Oliver Pacchiana was studying abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa

A student from the University of Pennsylvania died in a rock climbing accident in Namibia, southern Africa on Sunday. Oliver Pacchiana, an Engineering major and Junior at the school, was studying abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa this semester. He was 20-years-old.

While on Spring Break, Pacchiana, originally from Greenwich, Connecticut, went on a trip to Victoria Falls and Botswana, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. The DP reports he then went off on his own to visit Namibia, a country 1,000 miles north of Cape Town, to go rock climbing on Sunday. While climbing with the group, Pacchiana slipped and fell to his death.

The American consulate in Namibia contacted Pacchiana’s family Sunday morning by phone and informed them of his death. UPenn students found out Monday night through email.

Oliver was an Eagle Scout and an altar server at his local parish, according to his brother Nolan Pacchiana.

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"The cliche that appears in every obituary is that the world mourns the passing of a good kid, taken before his time," said Nolan. "That is absolutely the case for Oliver. Oliver had a strong moral compass and a good heart."

Nolan also says his brother had a passion for traveling.

"He was always looking for a new experience, a new part of the world he hadn't seen," said Nolan. "He hiked the deserts of New Mexico and climbed the trails of Alaska. He had visited over 15 countries and five continents."

Pacchiana was also a member of the UPenn band.

"Oliver was a mainstay in the band as a freshman tuba player," said Penn band director Greer Cheeseman. "I don't think he missed an event, the whole year, rehearsal, game, anything. He was one you could always count on. He was a good kid. And he'll be missed."

David Kaiser-Jones, the president of the band, described Oliver as "cheerful, funny and instantly likable."

"He was enthusiastic and unabashedly quirky," said Jones. "So naturally, the band loved him. The Penn Band is a particularly tight-knit group, so his loss impacted us deeply."

A support meeting was held Tuesday afternoon inside a UPenn auditorium. A memorial service will be held in Greenwich this Saturday. UPenn will host a separate service on Monday.

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