MORE tributes have been paid to a Northumberland doctor who devoted her life to sports and her community.
Yesterday, The Journal told how Dr Ruth Fletcher, 60, surfaced unconscious from a dive in the North Sea on Sunday. She was airlifted to hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
Dr Fletcher, who lived in Stocksfield, Northumberland, was a passionate sportswoman who competed to the highest levels.
She was determined to give something back to the community, becoming a director of Leisure Tynedale – now North Country Leisure – the charitable organisation which supports and develops many of the county’s sports services.
Anne Dale, councillor for Stocksfield, said Dr Fletcher’s influence was felt across the village and beyond.
“Ruth was a tremendous supporter of leisure in the area,” said Coun Dale. “She really wanted to take every opportunity to develop sport for the whole community.
“I would always see her running around Stocksfield. She will be missed by a lot of people – she was a lovely person.”
John Maude, chief executive of North Country Leisure, added: “Ruth was always a great champion of the customers and the staff, and a very valued member of the board. She had so much energy – she was full of enthusiasm, and always laughing.
“She loved her sports, and in a way it makes it more tragic that she died in these circumstances.”
Dr Fletcher loved fell running, kayaking and cycling as well as diving, and was a former world quadrathlon champion, North East fell running champion and Scottish 100k title holder.
She was also a former member of Hexham Canoe Club, Tynedale Harriers, Tyne Triathlon Club and Northumberland Fell Runners.
Bridget Broadhurst, membership secretary at Tynedale Harriers, said: “Everyone at Tynedale Harriers is shocked and saddened to hear the news.
“Although she had not trained with us for several years, she was a valued member of the club for a very long time and we all admired her for her commitment to her sport.”
Dr Fletcher, who studied medical sciences at Girton College, Cambridge, completed her medical training at Newcastle University.
She was a former clinical medical officer for child health and family planning in Northumberland and Newcastle, and became the clinical medical officer at Prudhoe hospital in 1980.
In 1990 she joined the Health and Safety Executive as an employment medical officer, medical inspector and consultant occupational physician. She most recently worked for Nuffield health as a locum doctor and Newcastle Premier Health as a consultant occupational physician, but was semi-retired.
She was also a member of the Faculty of Occupational Physicians, and was trained to give medicals to fellow divers.
Dr Fletcher had been diving off Seahouses, Northumberland, with a group from Aqua North diving centre when she surfaced unconscious at around 12.30pm on Sunday. She was airlifted to Wansbeck Hospital by RAF Boulmer but was pronounced dead by doctors.
Police are still trying to piece together exactly what went wrong, and the Northumberland coroner has opened an inquest.
A post mortem is being held today, and toxicology tests and tests of her diving equipment are also expected to be made.