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Dublin Live
Kim O'Leary

Dublin school 'absolutely devastated' after two Leaving Cert students die on Greek island

The principal of a south Dublin school has paid tribute two former pupils who died on the Greek island of Ios at the weekend, leaving the school community "absolutely devastated."

Andrew O’Donnell, 18, is suspected to have died following a tragic accident, while Max Wall, also aged 18, is understood to have passed away from natural causes while both on the island of Ios. The two classmates had attended St Michael's College in Ballsbridge, and they had just completed their Leaving Cert examinations.

Principal Tim Kelleher at St Michael's College said that the school is open today and offering support to current and past pupils. He told RTE's Morning Ireland: "We are heartbroken. We have a very tight-knit community and these are two fantastic young men with they lives ahead of them.

"Bright, sporting academic men who were looking forward to this trip for months and on end, and the planning had been ongoing, not just in our school but in lots of other schools. So, I think there are hundreds and hundreds of families this morning plunged into deep, deep sadness because of what has occurred."

Read more: Dublin classmates died in separate incidents of 'natural causes and a tragic accident' in Greece

It’s understood that Andrew had been missing for some hours before he was found, while Max is believed to have died yesterday.

Mr Kelleher said that the news of the two young men's deaths is every parent's "nightmare" when group holidays and big groups of children go away on holidays.

"You just don't want to get the call to say your child is missing. But two of our families have had that call and we are devastated for them and our hearts are broken and our sympathy goes to them all".

Mr Kelleher described Andrew O’Donnell as a “fantastic young man, great sportsman, fantastic footballer”, a “huge supporter of the school” and “academically bright”. He described Max Wall as a "very bright young man" and a "fantastic sportsman" who was passionate about rugby.

Mr Kelleher said that other boys in Ios "are traumatised" following the loss of their two classmates, and he, described them as being a "very tight knit group of young men". He confirmed that some members of the school’s parent’s association have flown out to Ios to support the Wall and O’Donnell families

The school is expecting many of the boys on the trip to return home from Ios in the next 48 hours. Mr Kelleher said that St Michael's College in Ballsbridge will provide supports including counselling services.

"We’re here to welcome them home and to help and support those boys through their grief in whatever way we can because they’re absolutely devastated.”

Mr Kelleher also added that a book of condolences has been opened at the school today and that a vigil is planned later to remember Andrew and Max.

Former President of St Michael’s College Union, Tom McCormack told RTE's Morning Ireland that yesterday was the "darkest day" in the school's history. "Yesterday was the darkest day in the history of St Michael's College, a fairly new school in Dublin - first Leaving Cert was only in 1976 so we've had bad days before.

"But yesterday was a double tragedy away from home, and our thoughts are with the families and the boys of the class of 2023 who are celebrating what should be their next step in their careers with CAO results in August then into college. So it was a devastating day."

Mr McCormack said that they have been "heartened by the huge volume of messages of support" from ministers, councillors, and other schools. "Our sister school St Mary's had the Berkley tragedy eight years ago and we are now experiencing our darkest day."

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the news was "devastating". Mr Harris wrote on Twitter yesterday: "Thinking of the families & friends of Andrew and Max and all Leaving Cert students abroad in Greece who were enjoying holidays after exams and are now encountering such shock and pain and grief."

Arrangements are now being made to repatriate their bodies back to their families. The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed it is providing consular assistance.

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