IN A MOUNTAIN RESCUE EMERGENCY DIAL 999 or 112

Doctor Dies on Kerry Mountain While Three Climbers Cheat Death in Avalanche

Feb 24, 1986 | Archive

In an incident -packed weekend on the snow-covered Kerry mountains, a young Dublin doctor lost her life while three injured Cork climbers were dramatically airlifted to safety after spending a bitterly cold night on Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain. Dr. Stephanie Sharpe, Sandymount, fell 200 feet to her death last evening after slipping in icy conditions while descending from Carrauntoohil, between Killarney and Killorglin.

Earlier, in a separate incident, an Air Corps helicopter took the Cork climbers from a point about 2,300 feet above sea level to Tralee General Hospital, where all were reported to be comfortable. Last night, members of Kerry Mountain Rescue Team, who went without sleep while helping the Cork trio on Saturday night, were called out again to bring down the body of Dr. Sharpe, which was removed to the Isolation Hospital morgue, Killarney.

The trio, who fell an estimated 1,000 feet in an avalanche on Saturday afternoon, are all experienced climbers and members of Cork Mountaineering Club. They were comforted by Rescue Team personnel during their long night on the mountainside. Their ingenuity helped them survive in temperatures several degrees below freezing. “We kept ourselves warm and had plenty of hot drinks,” said a relieved, if bruised, Denis O’Connell. “The hours passed like an age and we were elated to see the lights and hear voices coming towards us in the darkness.”

Dr. Sharpe received very serious injuries to the head and is believed to have died instantly in her fall from about 2,000 feet above sea level. She had been accompanied by her boyfriend Dr. Terry Taylor, of Merrion Gate, Dublin. Her body was examined last night by Dr. John McCullough of Killarney.

The 15-hour rescue of the Cork trio was described as “extremely hazardous” by team controller, Paul Walker of Killorglin. “Normally, people might not survive in such conditions, but these climbers were very well clothed and equipped and were well prepared for an emergency,” he added. A much relieved Denis O’Connell, who was loud in praise of his rescuers, said that the drama started at around 4pm on Saturday when he and his two companions had almost reached the summit of 3,414 foot Carrauntoohil. “All of a sudden, an avalanche of loose snow came down on top of us and we were swept down a gully,” he continued. “We were actually on a bed of snow and could do nothing to help ourselves. We must have fallen about 1,000 feet.”

Their plight was first spotted by a Dublin climber, Tom Murphy, who had heard cries for help. A short time afterwards, three other Cork climbers, who had formed a different group, came on the scene. They left their bivvy bags and refreshments with their injured friends and set off for help. Shortly before 8pm, Tom Murphy reached the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Cronin, Beaufort, and the alarm was raised.

Gardaí in Killarney were alerted and the Mountain Rescue Team dispatched an advance party which included Con Moriarty, Mary Walker, John Cronin, and Tom Murphy. They set off in the darkness and came upon the injured people at 1.10am. As well as bringing blankets and food, they administered first aid. Members of the advance party stayed with the injured until morning. “They entertained us and kept our spirits up” remarked Denis O’Connell. “We had brought ourselves to a point where we would be fairly easily noticed and had wrapped ourselves in bivvy-bags to keep warm.”

Two further search parties, one with a stretcher, were sent out during the hours of darkness, including people like Stephen Thompson, Kevin Tarrant, Mick Barry, Pat Quinn, Tim Long and Jan Van Soest. A rescue from the air could not be effected until daylight and the Air Corps helicopter arrived from Baldonnell at 9am. It quickly set about picking up the injured, who were at the edge of Comeenoughter lake, the highest corrie in Ireland. All were safely delivered to Tralee Hospital by 11.30am.

A hospital spokesman said last night that all three were comfortable and in good spirits. They are expected to be detained for a few days. Denis O’Connell received over 20 stitches to his face, Deirdre Kelly has a fractured shoulder blade as well as sore ribs, while Pat Long is suffering from exposure and is believed to have an ankle injury.

In an incident -packed weekend on the snow-covered Kerry mountains, a young Dublin doctor lost her life while three injured Cork climbers were dramatically airlifted to safety after spending a bitterly cold night on Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain. Dr. Stephanie Sharpe, Sandymount, fell 200 feet to her death last evening after slipping in icy conditions while descending from Carrauntoohil, between Killarney and Killorglin.

Earlier, in a separate incident, an Air Corps helicopter took the Cork climbers from a point about 2,300 feet above sea level to Tralee General Hospital, where all were reported to be comfortable. Last night, members of Kerry Mountain Rescue Team, who went without sleep while helping the Cork trio on Saturday night, were called out again to bring down the body of Dr. Sharpe, which was removed to the Isolation Hospital morgue, Killarney.

The trio, who fell an estimated 1,000 feet in an avalanche on Saturday afternoon, are all experienced climbers and members of Cork Mountaineering Club. They were comforted by Rescue Team personnel during their long night on the mountainside. Their ingenuity helped them survive in temperatures several degrees below freezing. “We kept ourselves warm and had plenty of hot drinks,” said a relieved, if bruised, Denis O’Connell. “The hours passed like an age and we were elated to see the lights and hear voices coming towards us in the darkness.”

Dr. Sharpe received very serious injuries to the head and is believed to have died instantly in her fall from about 2,000 feet above sea level. She had been accompanied by her boyfriend Dr. Terry Taylor, of Merrion Gate, Dublin. Her body was examined last night by Dr. John McCullough of Killarney.

The 15-hour rescue of the Cork trio was described as “extremely hazardous” by team controller, Paul Walker of Killorglin. “Normally, people might not survive in such conditions, but these climbers were very well clothed and equipped and were well prepared for an emergency,” he added. A much relieved Denis O’Connell, who was loud in praise of his rescuers, said that the drama started at around 4pm on Saturday when he and his two companions had almost reached the summit of 3,414 foot Carrauntoohil. “All of a sudden, an avalanche of loose snow came down on top of us and we were swept down a gully,” he continued. “We were actually on a bed of snow and could do nothing to help ourselves. We must have fallen about 1,000 feet.”

Their plight was first spotted by a Dublin climber, Tom Murphy, who had heard cries for help. A short time afterwards, three other Cork climbers, who had formed a different group, came on the scene. They left their bivvy bags and refreshments with their injured friends and set off for help. Shortly before 8pm, Tom Murphy reached the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Cronin, Beaufort, and the alarm was raised.

Gardaí in Killarney were alerted and the Mountain Rescue Team dispatched an advance party which included Con Moriarty, Mary Walker, John Cronin, and Tom Murphy. They set off in the darkness and came upon the injured people at 1.10am. As well as bringing blankets and food, they administered first aid. Members of the advance party stayed with the injured until morning. “They entertained us and kept our spirits up” remarked Denis O’Connell. “We had brought ourselves to a point where we would be fairly easily noticed and had wrapped ourselves in bivvy-bags to keep warm.”

Two further search parties, one with a stretcher, were sent out during the hours of darkness, including people like Stephen Thompson, Kevin Tarrant, Mick Barry, Pat Quinn, Tim Long and Jan Van Soest. A rescue from the air could not be effected until daylight and the Air Corps helicopter arrived from Baldonnell at 9am. It quickly set about picking up the injured, who were at the edge of Comeenoughter lake, the highest corrie in Ireland. All were safely delivered to Tralee Hospital by 11.30am.

A hospital spokesman said last night that all three were comfortable and in good spirits. They are expected to be detained for a few days. Denis O’Connell received over 20 stitches to his face, Deirdre Kelly has a fractured shoulder blade as well as sore ribs, while Pat Long is suffering from exposure and is believed to have an ankle injury.