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Nurse from Mayo who ‘radiated happiness’ dies tragically while hiking in Australia

Fiona Lavelle (41) went missing on Tuesday after she set out on a hike in Cape Le Grand National Park.

Fiona Lavelle. Photo: WA Police.© Supplied by family

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

A nurse from Mayo has tragically died while hiking on the Western coast of Australia this week.

Fiona Lavelle (41) went missing on Tuesday after she set out on a hike in Cape Le Grand National Park.

The Irishwoman parked her car in the scenic spot of Hellfire Bay that morning, planning a bushwalk before temperatures spiked to over 40C that afternoon.

The alarm was raised when she failed to return home and her Nissan Navara was found, still in the carpark, on Tuesday night.

The search for Fiona, who emigrated to Australia with her husband some years ago and was working as a paramedic, has since been stood down following the discovery of a body.

Her husband’s uncle Martin McLoughlin, a member of Mayo County Council, has told the Irish Examiner that while the details of what happened are still unknown, communities in both Ireland and Australia are grieving the “absolute tragedy” of Fiona’s death.

Fiona – formerly from Keel, Achill Island – and her husband John McLoughlin – from Islandeady, Castlebar – moved to Australia after their marriage.

“Fiona was a lovely person. She loved the outdoor life, especially hiking in her spare time. Her death is an absolute tragedy”, Cllr McLoughlin said.

The pair lived in Perth, where Fiona had been doing relief ambulance work and John worked in construction.

The Mayo woman rang her husband around 11am on Tuesday to tell him she was about to set off on her hike and would be in touch later that day, Cllr McLoughlin told the Irish Examiner.

John called local police when he didn’t hear from his wife, kick-starting a major search operation.

An emergency text message and a photo of both Fiona and her car was sent out by local police to people in the area.

“Esperance Police are currently searching for Fiona who has been hiking around Cape Le Grand and was planning on hiking at Hellfire Bay this morning (Tuesday),” the force said on social media.

“She may have been in company with another female and is driving her Nissan Navara 1EVZ664.”

The search was stood down yesterday. Her death is not being treated as suspicious and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

Tributes have poured in for Ms Lavelle, who has been described as someone who always “radiated a feeling of infectious happiness” and “left others in a better place for meeting her.”

In a statement, St John Western Australia said the community is “deeply saddened by the events which unfolded today.”

They added: “Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of our team member.

“Our focus is on supporting our people and the broader St John community.

“We offer our thanks to WA Police, the State Emergency Service and all those who participated in the search.”

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