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Dublin Live
Dublin Live
Paul Healy

Grief-stricken parents of teens who died on holiday travel to Greece to bring them home

The devastated parents of two Leaving Cert students who died in a double tragedy on a Greek island have travelled to Greece to begin bringing home their remains.

Popular students Andrew O’Donnell, 18, and Max Wall, 18, were marking the end of their Leaving Certificate exams with around 90 of their classmates on the island of Ios - when tragedy struck over the weekend.

Andrew is understood to have gone missing on Friday, and after an intensive search his remains were found near a cliff near the main town of Chora on Sunday.

Tragic Max, who was in the same year as Andrew, is understood to have fallen ill while classmates were out searching on Sunday afternoon.

Read more: Classmates died in separate incidents of 'natural causes and a tragic accident'

According to local reports Max, who had successful heart surgery three years ago, according to RTE, was discovered unconscious in the port area of the island and was rushed to hospital where he was sadly declared dead.

Police on the island say they have now launched two separate investigations into the deaths.

Both young men had just graduated from St Michael’s College in Ballsbridge, south Dublin, and had been part of a large group of around 90 students who went to Ios to celebrate the end of the exams.

It is understood the devastated parents of both young men have now travelled to Ios, where it is expected the repatriation process may take a number of days.

The bodies are expected to be brought to Athens on Tuesday for a post-mortem examination.

Some 90 of the 120 Leaving Cert students in the year had travelled to Ios - many of whom are now said to be returning home early due to the tragedy.

On Monday several mourners were seen placing flowers outside the front gates of St Michael’s College, where a book of condolence has also been opened.

Speaking to reporters at the college, Pat Kitterick, Chair of the Board of Directors at the Spiritan Education Trust said: “Our thoughts are with the parents and families of these two young men who today are suffering immeasurable loss.

“We extend our deepest sympathy and support to their grieving families, to all in their wider circle of friends and fellow classmates who will be mourning their passing and to the Board of Management, the school leaders and all our colleagues on the staff of St Michael’s College.

“We will stand with them as they in turn support the students and the wider college community.

“We pray together and in solidarity with all who are mourning today. May they rest in peace.”

Flowers outside St, Michael's College in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Meanwhile St Michael’s College Principal Tim Kelleher said the deceased boys’ friends have been “traumatised” by the tragedy.

“We are heartbroken. We have a very tight-knit community and these are two fantastic young men with their lives ahead of them. Bright, sporting academic men… who were looking forward to this trip for months and on end,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“The planning had been ongoing, not just in our school but in other schools. So, I think there are hundreds and hundreds of families plunged into sadness because of what has occurred.”

He described Andrew O’Donnell as a “fantastic young man, great sportsman, fantastic footballer”, a “huge supporter of the school” and “academically bright”.

Similarly, Max was a very bright young man. Fantastic sportsman as well, passionate about his rugby and academically very bright also,” he added.

“Unfortunately, both families got the news yesterday that their future had been taken from them and we’re obviously devastated for them, their family and their friends and we’re here to help and support them in any way we can over the next days and weeks.”

Mr Kelleher said the school has “robust” counselling services that all students are made aware of and they will be available over the entire summer break, while the Department of Education is also offering support for students.

He said the group that travelled to Greece for the holiday are a “very tight-knit group”.

“So, these guys are absolutely traumatised and they just want to come home to their families, to their school, to their community,” he said.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin also expressed his sympathy to the families.

In a post on Twitter, he said: “My deepest sympathies to the families of Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall on the very sad loss of their beloved sons.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all of the St Michael’s College community, their friends and classmates.”

Mr Martin said the Embassy of Ireland in Athens is providing consular support and a consular officer is “on the ground in Ios”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, he said the deaths were “every parent’s nightmare” and that people were “devastated at the loss of such young lives, with such great potential”.

“It’s devastating and the most traumatic news that any parent could hear,” he said.

Young people in Greece must support each other and seek out other supports available, he added.

“Many of their friends are out there in Ios and it’s a very, very difficult time for them now, and we’d just ask them to look after each other of the next number of days,” Mr Martin said.

Several students also turned up to pay tribute outside the school on Monday.

David Walsh (18), a fifth year at St Michael’s, said the entire school was in shock over the news.

He said that Ios has been the go-to location for Leaving Cert students for the past number of years, and news of the tragedy spread quickly in student group chats online.

“They went last year as well and they went this year. It’s been kind of the place the last few years like Magaluf.

“I was away when I heard it. It spread around really quickly.

“I wouldn’t have known them personally but you would see them around the corridors.

“You’d know them well to see their face and obviously they’re great lads and it’s really sad news,” he said.

The past president of St Michael’s Union Tom McCormack said it was the “darkest day” in the history of the Dublin school.

“It was a devastating day, we’ve been heartened by the huge volume of messages of support from government ministers, councillors, senators, other schools.

“Our sister school, St Mary’s, eight years ago had the Berkeley tragedy and we are now experiencing our darkest day.”

The school said in a statement on Sunday that it was “a day of immense sadness for the school”, and said their thoughts were with the family and friends of the two boys.

The school encouraged students who want to know more about available supports to contact staff members.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman confirmed it is aware of both cases and is providing consular assistance.

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