Extra search teams help in walker hunt

Caroline Crawford

MOUNTAIN rescue teams from across the country have joined the search for a Dublin hillwalker, missing in Co Mayo for the past three nights.

Colm Byrne, of the Mayo Mountain Rescue Team said he was "very concerned" for the 38-year-old's safety as he faced a third night on the mountain.

The experienced hillwalker went hiking on Mweelrea Mountain near Louisburg, Co Mayo at midday on Tuesday.

He was planning to spend the night camping in the Doolough valley below the mountain, but never made it back to the car.

He was reported missing by his wife on Wednesday evening after he failed to make contact. A major search and rescue operation was launched immediately and continued throughout the daylight hours yesterday. It will resume this morning.

Friends of the experienced hillwalker have travelled down from Dublin to assist in the ongoing search, with teams also expected to travel from Dublin and Wicklow hillwalking clubs.

Local farmers have also joined the search along with mountain rescue teams from Galway, Sligo, Donegal and the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team.

"At the moment we have about 35 people searching at all times. We're very concerned for him, it's been over 48 hours now," said Mr Byrne.

"We're walking the routes that he would have been likely to walk.

"We're also searching in areas where from experience people make errors and go astray."

Wind conditions hampered the search for the 38-year-old yesterday with the coastguard helicopter forced to pull out of the operation.

"We're experiencing typical Irish weather, the wind conditions are difficult and it's quite cold with very heavy showers. We're hoping the wind will lessen and the helicopter can resume searching today," added Mr Byrne.

The Dublin man is a member of the Irish Mountaineering Club and would have been a frequent climber of mountains around the country.

Mweelrea was a regular destination for the group.

Mr Byrne added that despite the hillwalker's experience, knowing the mountain will not necessarily be of help.

Mweelrea Mountain overlooks Killary Harbour and is a popular destination for hillwalkers.

At 814m (2,671ft) it is the highest point in Co Mayo and in the province of Connacht.