Saturday 15 December 2018

One Irish man has died and another is missing on kayaking trip in Ecuador

Alex McGourty (19), from Sligo, pictured on a recent kayaking trip, died on Saturday while ‘on the trip of a lifetime’ in Ecuador
Alex McGourty (19), from Sligo, pictured on a recent kayaking trip, died on Saturday while ‘on the trip of a lifetime’ in Ecuador
Alex McGourty has been awarded a scholarship into the World Class Kayak Academy in Washington
David Higgins
The earthquakes hit in Ecuador's north-western coastal area
David Higgins is reported missing

Sasha Brady and Luke Byrne

A young Irish man has died and another is still missing following a kayaking accident in Ecuador.

Alex McGourty (19) from Sligo passed away on Saturday while on a group kayaking trip.

David Higgins (26), originally from Kerry, had been kayaking with Mr McGourty and a group of three others but is reported missing.

It's understood that the five kayakers got into difficulty following a flash flood in the River Abanico, in the Morona Santiago province.

David Higgins is reported missing
David Higgins is reported missing

One of the kayakers was found alive by rescue teams on Sunday, while Mr Higgins is one of the three reported missing.

Mr McGourty's body was discovered on Saturday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is aware of the case and it is providing consular assistance.

Local media reports say that searches will resume at 11am Irish time.

Mr McGourty, a member of Sligo Kayak Club, had travelled around the globe on kayaking trips after qualifying for the World Class Kayak Academy in 2016.

On their Facebook page, Sligo Kayak Club posted a tribute to Alex, saying he was "one of the finest young men we had the honour of knowing and paddling with".

Eddie Loftus from Sligo Kayak Club told Independent.ie that the club and community is reeling from the tragedy.

He said Mr McGourty was a talented kayaker and a kind young man who often volunteered with the club, training young people with disabilities.

"He'll be so missed around here, we were all so fond of him," said Mr Loftus.

"Alex was a great kid, he was so unassuming too. He'd be the last one to tell you how skillful he was.

"He was on the trip of a lifetime over there. It's truly heartbreaking."

Call Of The Wild activity store, of which Mr McGourty was an ambassador, Tweeted of their sadness at the news of his death.

"Our sympathies to the family of Alex McGourty who has died tragically following his dreams in South America. We are deeply saddened by this news.

"Alex was an absolute gentleman and a massive credit to his parents," the store said.

Another missing man was named locally as Adam Nicholas Vaughan, from England.

Another missing man is well-known young Ecuadorian kayaker Joaquín Meneses. His father posted on Facebook that he had been involved in a kayak accident.

The nationalities of the other missing kayaker is not yet known.

Local rescue teams, including police and firefighters have joined in the search for the missing people.

Local reports suggested heavy rain had increased the flow of rivers in recent days. 

The Abanico river is one of the largest in the region. 

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