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Super-fit Laura dies of suspected heart attack

A young Irish woman who died of a suspected heart attack in west Africa, was a "very fit" athlete who competed in triathlons.

Laura Thornton, from Galway city, had travelled alone to the Cameroon capital, Yaounde, to take part in voluntary work.

She collapsed and died on January 2 and is believed to have suffered a heart attack.

A single woman in her early 30s, she was a sports injury practitioner and ran her own business.

She was a renowned tennis and squash player and represented her province and Ireland at squash in under age grades.

She was extremely fit and competed in triathlons in recent years.

Former president of Galway Lawn Tennis club, Olwyn Raftery, said 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.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, who knows the family, described her death as a dreadful tragedy.

"It's tragic for a family to lose a daughter and sister in this way and so far from home," she said.

Ms Thornton is survived by her parents, Kevin, a retired teacher, and Miriam, and by her brothers David and Ian and sister Sarah.

The Department of Foreign Affair has been providing consular assistance to her family.

A spokesperson for the department said she died of natural causes.