An Australian woman who died on Mount Everest last week after developing altitude sickness fell ill just 15 minutes short of reaching the summit, and her husband said Sunday that reaching the top €œdidnt mean anything€ without her beside him.

Maria Strydom, 34, had set out to climb the mountain with her husband to prove that €œvegans can do anything.€ In an interview with the Seven Network on Sunday, her husband, Robert Gropel, said he continued on to the summit after she became ill.

€œI asked, €˜Do you mind if I go on, and she said, €˜Yes, you go on, Ill wait for you here,€ he said. €œFrom that position the summit didnt look that far, 15 minutes away. When I made it to the summit of Everest it wasnt special to me, because I didnt have her there. I just ran up and down and it didnt mean anything to me.€

On the way down the mountain, Strydom began to struggle to walk and speak. She improved after being given medication and oxygen, but then she collapsed and couldnt be revived, the Guardian reported. She died on May 20.

€œIm her husband, its my job to protect my wife and get her home and its just natural for me to blame myself,€ Gropel said during the Sunday interview. €œI still cant look at any pictures of her because it breaks my heart.€