An athlete who died in the air while kitesurfing could have been saved with a simple heart check, his heartbroken sister has revealed.
Ger Fennelly, who would have turned 40 yesterday, died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome while attending a charity event at Dollymount Strand, Dublin on October 31.
Her sister Elaine Fennelly, from Beaumont in Dublin, said a simple EKG could have saved her life and urged athletes to get checked for heart disease.
She said: “At first people thought he had lost control of the kite and died from the impact of falling from a great height.
“We now know from the postmortem results that Ger died of a congenital heart defect that was never detected at birth. He suffered cardiac arrest and died in the air.
“Knowing that he died before impact and did not suffer was reassuring.”
The experienced kite-surfer and triathlete was fundraising for a mental health charity at the time of his death.
He had only been in the water for 29 minutes when he had a heart attack.
The father-of-one suffered from type 1 diabetes, but his sister said he never let his condition stop him from accomplishing everything he set out to do. She said: “He was really, really strong in his physical form and was a really talented athlete.
Elaine said: “He finished an ironman in Barcelona in 2018, he also swam at Alcatraz and did a triathlon in San Francisco.”
Ger has been described as a “gentleman” by his friends and colleagues.
He had worked as a housing officer for the Cluid Housing charity, providing affordable, quality housing to people in need of housing.
He had just been offered a permanent position within the organization and was due to start a new role in the company.
Ger’s family has set up a fundraiser for the screening unit at Mater Hospital which has already raised thousands of euros.
They hope to educate athletes about the dangers of SADS and encourage as many people as possible to get tested.
A statement from Ger’s family on the fundraising page read, “€ 45 is the cost of a life-saving CT or ECG for people at risk for SADS at this clinic.
“And the screening that takes place here depends almost entirely on fundraisers like this.
“Our family will now be screened here for the same genetic disease as Ger, as well as other families who have suffered or will unfortunately suffer from similar grief.
“Donations to this clinic will help screening become more proactive and help researchers build a biobank of samples that can help identify families at risk before the tragedy. “