Tragedy struck at Ireland’s top natural tourist attraction, the Cliffs of Moher, when a para-jumper died in a leap from 702 feet.

Malcolm Rowley, 45, from Bantry, Co. Cork, may have lost control in his jump from the highest point on the cliffs which attract one million visitors a year.

Another man had completed the same jump moments before extreme sports enthusiast Rowley made his leap.

A third man was observing the jumps from the cliff top at Aill Na Searrach.

It wasn’t immediately known whether Rowley’s parachute failed to open or deployed too late for him to make a safe landing.  But Gardai believe after initial interviews, that the parachute may have struck the cliff face sending Rowley spiraling out of control.

Recovery services, including the Irish Coast Guard and the Shannon-based rescue helicopter, were alerted to the Saturday morning tragedy shortly after 7 a.m.

Malcolm Rowley, 45, from Bantry, Co. Cork.

Malcolm Rowley, 45, from Bantry, Co. Cork.

The Coast Guard boat from Doolin was able to get close enough to the cliff base to allow three members, one of whom is a doctor, make their way ashore. This was only possible because weather and sea conditions were favorable.

Previous rescue and recovery operations in the same area have involved five- to six-hour missions where teams had to abseil to the base to make a successful recovery.

On this rare occasion, conditions also allowed the helicopter to safely maneuver into position and winch a crew member onto the shore below.

Ambulance service paramedics and Coast Guard members also made their way to the cliff base via a precarious goat track that meanders down the side of another nearby cliff.

Coast Guard officer Mattie Shannon said: “This was only the second time that I’ve ever seen the helicopter get that close to the base of the cliff but conditions were ideal.”

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