Top sportswoman dies on Africa trip
AN outstanding sportswoman died suddenly while travelling in Cameroon.
Laura Thornton, a native of Galway city, had travelled alone to the capital, Yaounde, to take part in voluntary work. She collapsed and died on January 2. It is believed she may have suffered a heart attack.
The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed her identity yesterday following initial difficulties identifying her and subsequently contacting her family.
A single woman in her early 30s, she was a sports injury practitioner and ran her own business in Galway city. She was a renowned tennis and squash player and represented Connacht and Ireland at squash in under-age grades. She was extremely fit and in recent years had competed in triathlons.
Former president of Galway Lawn Tennis Club, Olwyn Raftery, said that club members and friends were all stunned by the tragic news.
"People can hardly believe it. Everybody is stunned. She was so young. She was a beautiful and very sporty girl and a pleasure to coach", she said.
Galway Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, who knows the family, described her death as a dreadful tragedy.
"It is tragic for a family to lose a daughter and sister in this way and so far from home. They are a lovely family and everybody's thoughts are with them at this time," said Senator Healy Eames.
She is survived by her parents, Kevin, a retired schoolteacher, and Miriam; and by her brothers David and Ian and sister Sarah. The Department of Foreign Affairs has been providing consular assistance to her family. Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised.