Tragic Rhonda O’Loughlin was ‘free spirit’, says grieving sister

Rhonda O'Loughlin
Rhonda O'Loughlin

The heartbroken sister of a Northern Ireland woman who was found dead in the Irish Republic has described her sibling as “a bubbly and deeply caring” person.

Gardai had mounted a major search operation after Rhonda O’Loughlin – originally from Beragh in Co Tyrone – went missing from her home in Bridgetown, south Donegal on September 23.

Harry Gibson from Beragh passed away in a tragic accident last month

Harry Gibson from Beragh passed away in a tragic accident last month

On Tuesday, the 33-year-old’s family received the devastating news that her body had been located.

Her sudden death is the third tragedy to hit the close-knit community of Beragh in recent weeks. Young farmer Harry Gibson died in tragic accident last weekend, while Kyra McKinley from the village was killed in a road crash in August.

Rhonda’s sister Yvonne Reid recounted her family’s “living nightmare” during the week her sister had been missing,

And while the cause of Rhonda’s death is not yet known, Yvonne said the family is thankful that they can now begin to grieve.

Kyra McKinley from Beragh was killed in a road crash in August

Kyra McKinley from Beragh was killed in a road crash in August

“We are not sure at this point what has actually happened,” she told the News Letter.

“It appears she has gone out for a walk and fallen. When I last saw her a few days before she disappeared everything was normal. She was joking and having a laugh.

“She had been involved in a car accident a few weeks ago. The feeling now is that maybe that is connected in some way; maybe she had a knock to the head or something. We just don’t know at this point.”

Recalling the traumatic experience of joining in the search for her missing sister, Yvonne said: “There had only been one sighting of Rhonda out walking on the road, and other than that there were no leads whatsoever.

“We really struggled to cope with the uncertainty and not knowing what had happened. We searched for days on end, no one went to work during that week. But the support we had from friends was amazing and it has really helped us through this. We also can’t thank the Garda enough for all their efforts.”

It is understood Rhonda’s body was discovered by farmers. A post mortem examination is due to be carried out today to determine the cause of her death.

Rhonda, the youngest of four siblings, was employed as a community nurse. She moved to Donegal around five years ago to live with her boyfriend.

Paying tribute to her “baby sister”, Yvonne said: “She was a free spirit. She was a caring, bubbly and happy go lucky person who will be deeply missed.”

Garda told the Irish Mirror that Rhonda’s death is not being treated as suspicious.

A family notice stated that Rhonda was the “dearly loved daughter of John and Pat, loving sister of Derek, Yvonne (Reid) and Heather (Woods), a dear sister-in-law, much loved Auntie Rhonda and girlfriend of Martin. Will be sadly missed by her loving mum, dad, brother, sisters, boyfriend and the entire family circle.”