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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Helena Smith in Athens

Two Irish teenagers die hours apart on Greek island of Ios

Composite of Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall
Tributes have been paid to Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall, who died hours apart from each other. Composite: Social media

Greek police are investigating the deaths of two Irish teenagers on the Aegean island of Ios.

Tributes poured in on Monday for Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall, both 18, as authorities announced that their bodies would be transferred to the port city of Piraeus near Athens for autopsies to be conducted.

The two Dublin classmates were part of a 69-strong group on a school graduation excursion to the Cycladic isle. They died hours apart in different areas of Ios.

“We’re heartbroken,” said Tim Kelleher, the principal of St Michael’s College, a Catholic boys’ school where weeks earlier the teenagers had sat their leaving exams. “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 on end,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

The regional police directorate of the south Aegean handling the affair said it expected the postmortems to yield answers.

“O’Donnell was found on a path between the port and Ios town and it seems he had fallen,” said Brigadier Thanos Loukas, the directorate’s commanding officer. “Wall was found very close to the place where he was staying. We have since heard he had a history of heart problems but the answers lie in the autopsies. The cause of death in both cases will become clearer once they are carried out.”

Another police officer on Ios said witnesses who were with Wall described the young man as becoming very distressed when he was told the news about his friend.

“The search for O’Donnell began hours earlier when worried friends reported him missing on Saturday night,” said the source, requesting anonymity. “Wall collapsed when he heard what had happened. Everyone is saying what is true, that the incident is like an ancient Greek tragedy. The whole island is in shock.”

Greek media reports suggested O’Donnell and others in the party had been drinking heavily when he decided to walk back to his rented room as night began to fall. After he failedto appear, friends raised the alarm, setting off a police search.

“His body was found among rocks on a pathway on Sunday morning,” the police officer said. School leavers on the trip were said to have been left “absolutely traumatised” by the tragedy.

Ireland’s minister for further and higher education, Simon Harris, called the news “devastating”. He wrote on Twitter: “Thinking of the families and 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.”

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it was providing consular assistance and had dispatched a staff member to the island while family members had also flown in.

Ios, once a hippy retreat, has become increasingly popular among young revellers, in recent years drawing large numbers from Ireland.

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