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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Irish photographer dies after fall at beauty spot

John McCourt

Published 18/08/2014 | 02:52

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Fanad Lighthouse in Co Donegal
John McCourt – pictured with his late wife, who he had recently lost to cancer
John McCourt – pictured with his late wife, who he had recently lost to cancer

AN AMATEUR photographer fell to his death off rocks beside a landmark lighthouse during a force eight gale.

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John McCourt (59) tumbled 50 metres into a gulley at the western side of Fanad Lighthouse in north Donegal.

The Antrim native had been in the area with a friend taking pictures.

He was a highly respected member of the Antrim Camera Club and had won many awards. He recently lost his wife to cancer.

Ian Scott, the station officer at Malin Head Coastguard station, said that one local boat rushed to the scene as did the coastguard helicopter from Sligo, the two Lough Swilly lifeboats and coastguard fast response team from Mulroy Coastguard.

“All those units arrived on scene at roughly the same time, the team from the coastguard managed to locate this man in the water.

“They pulled him out which was very difficult as he had fallen off the cliff and been taken into a ravine, it would have been like a washing machine in there.”

A member of the RNLI team, with a rope attached, managed to swim to where the photographer lay in the gulley and was able to bring him to the Coast Guard boat.

The rescue team started to perform CPR before Mr McCourt was transferred by helicopter to Letterkenny General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“It was a very difficult rescue, the team would have been at great risk,” Mr Scott said.

He said Fanad was “an area of outstanding beauty and it attracts a lot of visitors but sadly sometimes people will underestimate the power of the wind and the sea”.

The incident took place on one of the worst days of the summer in Donegal with

torrential rain and high winds all day. “Conditions were very rough at the time,” said Joe Joyce, of the RNLI Swilly team.

“There was a Force Eight gale and seas were very high.”

Fanad Lighthouse is a working lighthouse and the grounds are currently closed to the public although there are plans to open it for tourists next year.

John McAteer, who lives next to the lighthouse, said: “The rescue crews did an incredible job recovering the man from the gulley because it was so windy at the time. There were huge waves.

“It’s sad to hear the man has since passed away.”

Irish Independent

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