Tributes continue for ’gentleman’ kayaker killed in Ecuador, Second Irish man missing

Tributes continue for ’gentleman’ kayaker killed in Ecuador, Second Irish man missing
Alex McGourty. Photo: Facebook

Friends of the young Irishman who died in a kayaking accident in Ecuador have paid tribute to the 19-year-old adventurer.

Alex McGourty, from Sligo, has been described by friends as an "absolute gentleman" and an "outstanding young man" who had "the world at his feet".

Mr McGourty died after getting into difficulty following a flash flood in the river Abanico, in the south east of the country.


A second Irishman, David Higgins, who had been kayaking with Mr McGourty and a group of three others, has been reported missing.

David Higgins. Photo: Facebook
David Higgins. Photo: Facebook

A member of the kayaking party who was missing alongside Mr Higgins is reported to have been found safe in the Ecuadorian jungle near the town of Macas.

The World Class Kayaking Academy in Washington posted a photograph on Facebook of Joaquin Meneses, who was missing for two days, and said 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."

In April, Mr McGourty fractured his vertebrae while kayaking in Oregon.

Sligo Kayak Club, where Mr McGourty was a trainee instructor, said the young man "died while fulfilling his dreams, kayaking in Ecuador".

In a post on Facebook, the club said they believed the whole team had been caught by a flash flood.

The club added: "It is 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 would like to extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathies to Alex’s parents Frankie and Eilish, his family and his friends. Alex will be greatly missed by all in Sligo Kayak Club.

"He was one of the finest young men we had the honour of knowing and paddling with."


Friends have also used Facebook to pay tribute to the young adventurer.

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."

Ursula Gilrane wrote: "Such a tragic loss of a young life. What a brave and courageous young man."

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."

Call Of The Wild activity store, for which Mr McGourty was an ambassador, tweeted their sadness at the news of his death.

"Our sympathies to the family of Alex McGourty who has died tragically following his dreams in South America. We are deeply saddened by this news.

"Alex was an absolute gentleman and a massive credit to his parents," the store said.

Mr McGourty is a past pupil of Summerhill College in Sligo.

In 2016 he received a one-year scholarship to the World Class Kayak Academy in Washington.

Meanwhile, searches were continuing for Mr Higgins.

Just a few weeks ago Mr Higgins told friends that while he enjoyed travelling, he missed home.

At new year, he wrote on Facebook: "Travelling is great, but Snapchat friends and Facebook memories are determined to remind me of the opportunity cost .... I miss the MOTHERLAND."

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland said it was aware of both cases and that consular assistance was being provided.

- Press Association and Digital Desk

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