19/01/2005

Doctor's body recovered from New Zealand mountainside

The body of a Belfast doctor who fell to his death from a New Zealand mountainside has been recovered, it was confirmed today.

Donal Deery, 29, died after falling 200 metres down a ravine as he was walking in the South Island's Southern Alps last week with his girlfriend, 25-year-old Helen McClements.

A New Zealand police rescue team from Wanaka recovered the body at 7am local time after previous efforts to do so had been prevented by adverse weather conditions with strong winds and snowstorms in the area.

Ms McClements, from Bangor, Co Down, is being treated in Dunedin Hospital for the back and internal injuries she sustained during the fall.

She said she had learned of Donal's bravery as he attempted to save her from a fall in which he was fatally injured. She said that she had been "touched by an angel" as he tackled her to the ground in a bid to stop the slide down the slope. However, he lost his life as they plunged around 600 feet down the snow-covered mountainside.

Two companions spent around 45 minutes trying to resuscitate Dr Deery who was an experienced mountaineer. One of them later ran to an emergency hut to raise the alarm and a helicopter, which was scrambled to the scene and plucked Ms McClements from the mountainside.

She is expected to return home to Northern Ireland within the next few weeks depending on the results of further tests.

(MB/SP)

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