Rescue workers retrieve woman’s body from Comeragh Mountains

Expressions of ‘shock and heartbreak’ over death of experienced runner Gillian Ryan (37)

Gillian Ryan (37) from near Thurles, Co Tipperary, was ‘so full of love and positivity’.

Gillian Ryan (37) from near Thurles, Co Tipperary, was ‘so full of love and positivity’.


Search and rescue teams have retrieved a woman’s body from the Comeragh Mountains in Co Waterford after a day-long operation.

An improvement in weather conditions allowed the Rescue 117 helicopter to move in and lift the body from difficult terrain shortly after 6pm on Tuesday.

A body was discovered on Monday evening during the search for Gillian Ryan (37), an experienced mountain runner who had gone missing on Sunday afternoon while on a popular but steep trail near Coumshinghun lake.

Emergency services were alerted when her husband did not hear from her after her run and a search effort commenced.

Investigations are ongoing but rescue services believe Ms Ryan, a mother of two, may have lost her footing or become disoriented in fog close to one of the deepest gullys in the Comeraghs.

The body was moved by stretcher lower down the mountain by rescue team members on Tuesday before being winched away and transferred to Waterford Airport by the helicopter. A postmortem is expected to be carried out at University Hospital Waterford.

There were warm tributes to Ms Ryan, who lived near Thurles in Co Tipperary, on Tuesday after news of the discovery emerged.

‘Shock and heartbreak’

Thurles Crokes Athletics, of which Ms Ryan was a member, expressed “shock and heartbreak” at the news about “our beautiful friend and athlete Gillian”. It sent condolences to her husband and children.

In a statement, the club said Ms Ryan was “so full of love and positivity” and running with her “made the many miles fly by in laughter and chat”.

Ms Ryan had been an active member of the club since September 2019 and ran long distances weekly. An “athlete profile” posted on Facebook last year by the club said she ran 50-70km per week and enjoyed routes near beauty spots and the coast.

She described running as “a huge gift” and said it helped her “to be mindful, clear my head of stress and feel free”.

Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan said she had met Ms Ryan at a running camp last year. She was “full of energy and loved her running”, O’Sullivan said in a post on the Thurles Crokes Athletics page.

“A big fan of our weekly podcast and will be missed by so many in the running community. RIP and condolences to family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Independent councillor Jim Ryan said there was “great shock and sadness” in the Thurles community and Ms Ryan’s local parish of Moycarkey-Borris.

“She was a very popular lady and a young woman with a young family. The community is just in shock,” he said.

Difficult conditions

He added that Ms Ryan “always had a smile on her face” and “you’d see her jogging up the main street of Thurles practically every day”. He paid tribute to those who had searched the Comeragh Mountains for Ms Ryan in recent days in difficult conditions.

“I think at one stage there were 40 people out searching and that was so important,” he said. “It’s been a blow to Thurles.”

Cllr Sean Ryan, who knows Ms Ryan’s family, offered his condolences to her relations, saying the community in the Horse and Jockey area was “devastated at Gillian’s tragic passing”.

“She was a lovely person and my sincere sympathy to her husband Conor and all the family at this very sad time.”