Saturday 23 March 2019

One Irish kayaker dead and another missing in floods

Alex McGourty
Alex McGourty

A young Irish man has died and another was missing last night following a kayaking accident in Ecuador.

Alex McGourty (19), from Sligo, died on Saturday while on a group trip.

David Higgins (26), originally from Kerry, had been kayaking with Mr McGourty and a group of three others when he went missing.

It is understood the group of kayakers got into difficulty following a flash flood in the River Abanico, in the Morona Santiago province.

One of the kayakers was found alive by rescue teams yesterday, while three remain missing.

Local reports said one of the missing men was well-known young Ecuadorian kayaker Joaquin Meneses. His father posted on Facebook that he had been involved in an accident.

The nationalities of the other two are not yet known.

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

Heavy rain had increased the flow of rivers in recent days.

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

Mr McGourty's body was discovered on Saturday.


A member of Sligo Kayak Club, he had been kayaking through North and South America for a number of years after qualifying for the World Kayak Academy.

Eddie Loftus from Sligo Kayak Club said that the community is reeling from the tragedy.

He said Mr McGourty was a talented and 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 skilful he was.

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

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

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