University of Limerick student who died in kayak accident gives gift of life

Aisling O'Connor RIP

A UNIVERSITY of Limerick student who died following a kayaking accident in Kerry on Saturday has given the gift of life to four seriously ill people through organ donation.

Aisling O’Connor (21), who was a native of Skibbereen living in Ballyshannon,  got into difficulty while kayaking on a river near Glencar in Killarney on Saturday afternoon.


The third year biological and chemical sciences student was with a group of more than 20 students on the trip organised by the UL Kayaking Club.

Aisling and a 21 year old male kayaker were airlifted to University Hospital Kerry in Tralee after they got into difficulty when their kayaks upturned in rough water.

Aisling died on Monday while the young man was discharged after treatment for his injuries.

As it was confirmed on Wednesday that Aisling’s organs had been successfully transplanted to four recipients, her mother, Sorcha Begley, said Aisling would love to have seen other lives saved.

Her father, David O’Connor, said that even in death, Aisling continues to care for, enrich and help others in need.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, he wrote that Aisling enriched the lives of everyone she encountered. She was loving, bubbly, bright, vivacious and caring.

“As I write this, my beautiful baby’s organs are being harvested to help the lives of others. Incredibly, within ten minutes of her being pronounced dead yesterday, the liver transplant team identified Aisling as a perfect match for a patient of theirs.

“My hope is that all of her organs are viable and will give the gift of life to those who need it. Aisling would not have had it any other way.

“Please think of Aisling and wish her well on her onward journey where I know she is lighting up the lives of everyone she encounters”, his statement concluded.

Aisling’s friends and fellow kayakers have described her as a “bubbly and passionate person who always had a cheeky smile on her face”

She was a fiercely determined paddler who regularly went on the River Shannon with her friends or by herself when she needed to relax.

Clubmate David Leahy said: “She really was a huge part of the club. The heart of every party”

Aisling is survived by her parents Sorcha and David as well as her brothers Ciaran and Matthew and younger sisters Clodagh and Maeve.