Parachute may have snagged on Cliffs of Moher in fatal jump

Malcolm Rowley (45) from Cork died after landing on rocks during ‘base jump’

The Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare. Photograph: File/iStock

The Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare. Photograph: File/iStock

 

The base jumper who died in Saturday’s cliff tragedy in Co Clare may have lost control due to his parachute snagging on the cliff face, according to gardaí.

Extreme sports enthusiast Malcolm Rowley (45) from Cork died after he jumped from the 700ft high Cliffs of Moher on Saturday morning.

Another man had successfully completed the same jump moments earlier. A third man was observing the jumps from the cliff top.

It wasn’t immediately known whether Mr Rowley’s parachute failed to open or deployed too late for him to make a safe landing.

One possibility being examined by gardaí, following initial interviews, is that the parachute struck the cliff face sending Mr Rowley spiralling out of control.

The three men are believed to have met at Aill Na Searrach, where the Cliffs of Moher are at their tallest, early on Saturday morning.

The alarm was raised at 7am when the National Ambulance Service was alerted to the incident. An ambulance from Ennistymon and rapid response advanced paramedic unit from Ennis went to the scene.

The Irish Coast Guard was also informed and the Doolin based volunteer unit and Shannon based search and rescue helicopter, Rescue 115, were tasked.

The Doolin Coast Guard boat was able to get close enough to the cliff base to allow three members, one of whom is a doctor, make their way ashore. This was only possible because weather and sea conditions were favourable.

Previous rescue and recovery operations in the same area have involved five- to six-hour missions where teams had to abseil to the base to make a successful recovery.

On this rare occasion, conditions also allowed Rescue 115 to safely manoeuvre into position and winch a crew member onto the shore below.

Ambulance service paramedics and Coast Guard members also made their way to the cliff base via a precarious goat track that meanders down the side of another nearby cliff.

The two men who were with Mr Rowley at the time were left visibly shaken by the fatality.

They gave statements to gardaí­ at Ennistymon who are investigating the incident.

Doolin Coast Guard officer in charge (OIC) Mattie Shannon said: “This was a difficult operation but the sea conditions were calm with no swell which made things a lot easier. We were able to reverse our boat close enough to the shore to allow three members, including a doctor, wade in with a stretched and medical equipment.

“The favourable conditions also allowed the helicopter get in over the shore and drop a crew member down. This was only the second time that I’ve ever seen the helicopter get that close to the base of the cliff but conditions were ideal. The crew displayed excellent flying skills and all the services worked exceptionally well together on this operation.” Mr Shannon added.

An investigation into the tragedy is now underway. A file will also be compiled for the county coroner who will undertake an inquest.

Aill Na Searrach was the scene of a major incident in April 2000 when two abseilers died after a massive area of the rockface collapsed on top of them. A third person was critically injured in the tragedy.

The three were part of a 25-strong group from a Cork-based adventure club who were abseiling the cliff to raise funds for a Cork charity. The tragedy resulted in one of the largest search and rescue operations ever undertaken on the west coast.