Wednesday 16 January 2019

Fresh hope for lost kayaker as companion is found alive

Kayaker David Higgins, who has been missing in Ecuador since Saturday
Kayaker David Higgins, who has been missing in Ecuador since Saturday
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

There was fresh hope of finding an Irishman who has been missing since a kayaking accident in Ecuador at the weekend after one of his companions was found alive.

David Higgins (26), a native of Tralee, Co Kerry, who has been living in Galway for a number of years, was one of a group of kayakers who got into difficulty while navigating the River Abanico on Saturday.

Alex McGourty (19) from Sligo was killed in the incident and his body discovered on Sunday.

The river is near the city of Macas, the capital of Morona Santiago province.

The search for Mr Higgins and British kayaker Adam Nicolas Vaughan was still ongoing yesterday as local police, fire fighters, volunteers and a search helicopter combed the area.

Dominique Kennedy, the honorary Irish consul based in Ecuador, said there was still a ray of hope in the search for the two missing men after well-known Ecuadorian kayaker Joaquín Meneses was found alive and well yesterday afternoon.

"He was found along the river bank," she told the Irish Independent. "He had been walking for about 40 hours," she said. But Mr Meneses could not say what happened to the other kayakers following the accident, she said.

"He had no idea. He just got out of the kayak and tried to find [the city of] Macas," she added.

Sligo Kayak Club, where Mr McGourty was a trainee instructor, said the young man "died while fulfilling his dreams, kayaking in Ecuador".

The club said it was believed the entire group had been caught by a flash flood.

"The club would like to extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathies to Alex's parents Frankie and Eilish, his family and his friends. Alex will be greatly missed by all in Sligo Kayak Club.

"He was one of the finest young men we had the honour of knowing and paddling with."

It also emerged that Mr Higgins won the top prize in a major white-water race in the South American country just last week.

Mr Higgins won the overall Mens' Division of the 2018 Quijos Kayak race on the Quijos River in Beaza, Ecuador, last weekend. Mr Meneses placed 10th overall in the race, while Mr Vaughan placed eighth, according to a post on Facebook.

It's understood that Mr Higgins is a graduate of the School of Engineering at NUI Galway and is an active member of the NUIG Kayak Club.

Meanwhile, a search was ongoing last night for missing tourist Anthony O'Sullivan, from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, who was last seen in Bangkok five days ago while on holiday.

It has been confirmed that the missing man's passport and bank card have been found in his hotel bathroom.

His worried brother is in Bangkok and is helping to co-ordinate the search operation.

Irish Independent

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