Sligo man dies, Kerry man missing in Ecuador kayaking incident

Alex McGourty was killed while ‘fulfilling his dreams’ on adventure trip

Alex McGourty, who died while kayaking on Saturday, had arrived in Ecuador earlier this month. Photograph: Facebook

Alex McGourty, who died while kayaking on Saturday, had arrived in Ecuador earlier this month. Photograph: Facebook

 

An Irish man has died and another is missing following a kayaking accident in central Ecuador.

Alex McGourty (19) from Sligo died after his kayak became caught in a strong current on the Abanico river near the Sangay national park on Saturday afternoon.

Mr McGourty was kayaking with four other men, including David Higgins from Co Kerry, when they got into difficulty.

Mr McGourty’s body was found later, according to local police.

US citizen Jeremiath Stewart was found alive nearby but Mr Higgins, Adam Vaughen from England and champion Ecuadorian kayaker Joaquin Meneces Noboa, were missing.

Mr Stewart later told rescue workers the five kayakers were making their way down the Abanico river when they hit a strong current and lost control of their crafts. “When I made it to shore I realised my friends had disappeared,” said Mr Stewart.

Mr Meneces Noboa was found safe on Monday in the jungle. The World Class Kayaking Academy in Washington posted a photograph of him on Facebook, saying he was safe. The post said: “After what has been an unbelievably tragic few days, words can’t describe what it feels to see this photo. WCA alum Joaquin Meneses, after missing for two days in the Ecuadorian jungle near the town of Macas has been found and is safe. The entire community is in our hearts and minds.”

Scholarship

In Ireland, tributes were paid to Mr McGourty, who had travelled to Ecuador earlier this month.

A past pupil of Summerhill College in Sligo, he received a one-year scholarship to the World Class Kayak Academy in Washington in 2016.

The Sligo Kayak Club posted that it was with “profound sadness we announce the passing of club member and trainee-instructor Alex McGourty. Alex tragically died while fulfilling his dreams, kayaking in Ecuador”.

The club expressed its sympathies to Mr McGourty’s parents, Frankie and Eilish, and described their former member as “one of the finest young men we had the honour of knowing and padding with”.

The club also extended its thoughts to the family of Mr Higgins. “David is another Irish lad on the expedition. He is currently missing as well as two Ecuadorians. Their empty kayaks have been found.”

Sligo Kayak Tours also posted about Mr McGourty’s death, describing him as “a promising young kayaker from Sligo” who had “a passion for life which was infectious” and who was “kind and hardworking”.

“Let his passing be a reminder to us to chase our dreams, to live passionately and to seize each day as if it were our last,” wrote the tour company.

Mr McGourty posted last week on his Instagram account that he and the group had hiked six hours in the jungle into the “hidden upper Abanico” to go kayaking. He had spent two months kayaking in Nepal in late 2017 before returning to Ireland for Christmas and then travelling on to Ecuador.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the case and was providing consular assistance to the family.

Tributes

Friends used Facebook to pay tribute to Mr McGourty. Barry Mottershead wrote: “He was a solid guy, raised well, kind and hard working. His energy for life was infectious and it’s sad to see him gone too soon, but on the up side he spent his life and particularly the last few years living the dream, something we can all aspire to. RIP brother.”

Martin Duffy said: “Very very sad news — Alex was a truly outstanding young man — a credit to his parents and himself and a huge loss to the paddling community — RIP Alex you will be missed.”

Blaine Gaffney said: “Horrible news. Had the world at his feet. His dad was so proud of his achievements in kayaking and all he had done in the US and abroad.”