Durham University student, 19, dies of cardiac arrest while on holiday in Paris

A Durham University student has tragically died after collapsing in the shower while on holiday in Paris.

Rhea Hourigan, 19, was visiting her aunt in the French capital at the end of April when she passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest. The first year student had spent the day travelling through the city on an electric bicycle while on Easter holidays with her aunt to see the sights.

But later that evening as she was getting ready for bed Rhea, who worked at Nando’s, collapsed in the shower. And despite the best efforts of the paramedics who raced to the scene, she sadly couldn’t be saved.

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Polly Townhill, best friend of Rhea’s mother told the Mirror: “She’d got in the shower and she was getting ready to go to bed.

“She’d been there for quite a long time, so her Auntie knocked to say ‘Is everything all right you coming out?’ She answered her, Rhea said: ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m on my way out.’ Then she heard a bang…”

The cause of the cardiac arrest remains unknown, Rhea is not known to have suffered any medical conditions and there was no known history of heart failure in the family.

And in another devastating blow for the family, they have been unable to see their daughter due to the autopsy taking place next week.

The 19-year-old pictured with her family
19-year-old Rhea Hourigan pictured with her family

Polly said: “She had full travel insurance but it hasn’t covered what they need. There’s so much red tape over there and they have to treat her death as mitigating circumstances. It would still be a tragedy without this, but her parents cannot see their child until the autopsy is done. They are desperate to bring her home.

“Those are the two main things I know and it means that they haven’t been able to have an autopsy. Jo [mum] has just faced brick wall after brick wall.”

Writing on Facebook, her devastated mum Jo said: “She had so many plans, dreams and aspirations she was our bright shining star.

“She hadn’t even finished her first year of uni which she absolutely loved up in Durham and had made so many good friends.

“Our only comfort is that she was so happy and had had such a brilliant day seeing the sights of Paris, she wouldn’t have known what had happened and didn’t suffer.”

Polly says she and Jo were pregnant together and have been friends for 30 years. Speaking through tears she said there are no words to explain how devastated Polly’s daughter, Rhea’s best friend, is.

She added: “We’re all girlfriends, all the mums and we’ve all got children all the same age. One of our friend’s daughters is the general manager of Nando’s and all of the girls work there. So many people in such a small community are beyond devastated.”

Family friend Dawn Buchanan has set up a GoFundMe to help support the family and the financial pressures.

She wrote: “Their friends and family wanted to reach out and help as much as they can to ease the financial burden a little with any costs they will be incurring during this devastating time and the coming weeks and months.”

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