Body of backpacker located in national park

RELATIVES of missing backpacker Ronan Lawlor yesterday awaited the return of his body after his remains were discovered in a remote area of a national park in southern Chile.

The 28-year-old Irishman went missing two months ago while travelling across South America. It is thought he slipped and fell to his death.

Two climbers are believed to have come across the Co Laois man’s body on Sunday at the base of the three Towers of Paine or the Torres del Paine, giant monoliths frequently visited by tourists in the park.

Mr Lawlor was last seen on November 18 before he went hiking on the ‘W’ trek in the 2,400km square national park. Search parties came together after it was announced he was missing. The Irish embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, sent an envoy to Chile to help in the search mission for the engineer.

At one stage, members of the Lawlor family flew out to the region as efforts increased to find him. His disappearance also sparked an internet publicity campaign.

By mid-December, Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern had contacted his Chilean counterpart. A breakthrough was made when Mr Lawlor’s backpack was found at a hostel close to the national park.

A couple who Mr Lawlor met while travelling also came forward to pinpoint park areas he told them he planned to visit.

It is believed his remains, found on Sunday afternoon, were lying in an area difficult to access, in a zone at the base of the mountains.

Aidan Lawlor, Ronan’s cousin, yesterday said relatives had had some comfort with the find: “There’s a certain amount of relief. It’s almost good news.

“We grew up as kids on opposite sides of the road, we played together. He was extremely outgoing and loved photography.”

Provisional signs pointed to Mr Lawlor slipping and falling from a height in the park, added Aidan Lawlor.

The body had been found in an area that had been covered as part of the initial search, he added.

It was confirmed that Mr Lawlor’s passport was found near his body.

It is understood his body was transported by helicopter from the Torres del Paine park when it was discovered, to medical services in the southern city Punta Arenas, to officially confirm Mr Lawlor’s identity. DNA analysis was last night expected to confirm his identity.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was helping to arrange the repatriation of Mr Lawlor’s remains.

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