French issue permit for Eimear Noonan’s family to bring remains home

Principal pays tribute to ‘dynamic’ and ‘kind’ student teacher from Co Clare

Tributes have been paid to Eimear Noonan from Co Clare who died while out running in southwestern France.  Photograph: via Facebook.

Tributes have been paid to Eimear Noonan from Co Clare who died while out running in southwestern France. Photograph: via Facebook.


The French department of justice has issued a burial permit enabling the family of a young Irishwoman Eimear Noonan to bring her remains back to Ireland, probably on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old student teacher from Co Clare died after falling into a ravine in Annonay, southeast France while jogging last week.

Prosecutor Pierre-Yves Michau said the permit was issued by his office on Monday, after initial postmortem results showing that Ms Noonan died of drowning after a fall from a steep, four to five metre-high embankment.

“The post-mortem confirmed the original thesis of accidental death by drowning,” Mr Michau said.

The path where Ms Noonan was jogging is under a viaduct on the edge of the town.

She had arrived there in late September and was to have taught English at the Font Chevalier school through the year. “We don’t know what caused her to fall,” the prosecutor continued.

“Her head hit the ground and fell into a sort of puddle next to the stream. She lost consciousness and is believed to have drowned in the puddle.”

Truly tragic

Mr Michau said Ms Noonan “did not suffer, because she lost consciousness. If she had not been knocked out, she would not have died because she could have taken her head out of the water. We found silt from the puddle in her lungs.”

The accident was “truly tragic,” the French official said.

“Everyone is very shocked by it. All of us imagine the sadness and pain of the family of this student, who was 21 and who had just arrived in France, who had her life in front of her and who died in a dreadful, stupid accident.”

Her body was discovered at about midday on November 10th, by two youths who were walking in the forest on the opposite side of the stream. Ms Noonan was not carrying identity papers.

Gendarmes found her keys and mobile telephone. “The gendarmes made the connection with the worrying disappearance of a young Irishwoman. They found that the key opened the door of her apartment,” Mr Michau said.

“We also had a physical description of her. She had a piercing on her face, so the physical description corresponded.”

On the advice of French authorities, the family waited until after the postmortem and the completion of an undertaker’s services to identify their daughter and sister.

The French state pathologist is continuing routine tests and will issue a final report, probably in three to four weeks.

School principal

Earlier on Tuesday the principal of the Font Chevalier public school where Ms Noonan was a student teacher, has paid tribute to her. Ms Noonan’s parents and brother were due to visit the school.

“They want to see where she worked and meet the people she worked with,” Mr Vigne said.

“We are really very sorry and very touched,” Mr Vigne said, his voice filled with emotion. “Eimear was someone very dynamic, who wanted to become a teacher.

“We really liked working with her. She was kind. She was cheerful. We’re in shock and we are sorry for her family and for Ireland. I think she would have been a great person in life. She would have been a terrific teacher. This is tragic.”

As the ministry of education’s inspector for the region, Agnès Reynié met Eimear Noonan on her arrival in Annonay in late September.

“This was part of her studies, to become a teacher, to learn about French culture,” Ms Reynié said.

Joie de vivre

“She already spoke French well. She was to have spent the year here. She integrated very quickly into the Annonaise community. She made friends with the other teachers. She had real joie de vivre, and she wanted to communicate with the French.”

The school had helped Ms Noonan rent a room at La Résidence Le Provencal, student housing on the Place du Champs de Mars in Annonay, a town of 16,000 which is famous for having invented the hot air balloon.

She was one of a half-dozen student teachers who come to the town annually to teach foreign languages, mostly English. Ms Noonan’s students were between age six and ten.

“She wasn’t here very long, just a week before the All Saint’s holiday week, and a week after,” Mr Vigne said. “But some of the children were already getting attached to her… It’s incomprehensible that someone so young leave so quickly.” Ms Noonan was jogging on a public footpath frequented by walkers and joggers above the Deûme river. She slipped and fell. “I see the place,” Mr Vigne said.

“It’s very steep, a deep ravine with a little river at the bottom. She fell more than five metres.”

Mr Vigne said there was great sadness in Annonay. “People were really stunned by this accident. It’s a stupid accident; to lose one’s life like that. It’s hard to understand. People are really shocked.”

It had rained during the day on Wednesday. “I don’t know what time exactly it happened, but it must have been around nightfall,” Mr Vigne said. “She didn’t come to work on Thursday morning. We tried to reach her all day Thursday.”

Raised the alarm

Ms Noonan was in daily contact with her mother, who also raised the alarm, Ms Reynié said. Ms Noonan’s brother Cathal confirmed her death in a Facebook post on Sunday night.

“French authorities have now confirmed to us the heartbreaking news that our beloved Eimear died following a fall while running on Wednesday,” he wrote.

“Eimear celebrated her 21st birthday in April and had been living in Annonay since September, where she worked as an English language teacher. Eimear was a warm, bubbly person who had already made a wide circle of friends there through her love of music and singing.

“She graduated last month from UCC with an honours degree in Irish and French, was a talented violinist and to our immense pride was head of UCC orchestra for her final year there.”

Mr Noonan said his sister would be greatly missed by all who knew her, especially her parents Flan and Mary, her brothers Declan, Michael and Cathal.

“We will be forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support we have received in recent days. We would like to thank the Irish and French authorities and the people of Annonay for the kindness and compassion they have shown us.

“We now appeal for privacy in this most difficult time as we bring Eimear home to her beloved Lough Graney and start the journey of grieving.”