A school principal has said “our hearts are broken” and families have been plunged into “deep sadness” after the deaths of two recent graduates on the Greek island of Ios.
Tributes have been paid to the two teenagers, Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall, as “bright, sporting, academic” young men.
St Michael’s College released a statement on Sunday about the death of Andrew before later confirming Max had also died.
Minister for Further Education Simon Harris said his thoughts were with Leaving Cert students on holiday in Greece who were “now encountering such shock and pain and grief”.
On Monday, principal of St Michael’s College Tim Kelleher said that representatives of the school’s parent association had flown to the Greek island to support the families.
“We’re absolutely devastated, the entire community is reeling with the news over the last 24 hours.
“Our deepest sympathies and condolences go to the bereaved families, some of the parents association reps have flown out to the island to give them some support in their time of need,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.
He described Andrew as a “fantastic young man, great sportsman, fantastic footballer” who was academically bright, and was forward to his holiday and to attending college.
“A very, very bright future,” he said.
He described Max as “very bright”, “passionate about rugby” and had “the world at his feet”.
“Full of optimism and hope for the future.
“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 friends, and we’re here to help and support in any way we can in the next days and weeks.”
He said that the group of classmates who had been on holiday with them are “absolutely traumatised” and are on their way home.
He said that the school is open, there is a book of condolences open and supports are available to those who need them.
Four bouquets of flowers have been placed at the Dublin school; the Irish tricolour and the school flag are being flown at half mast outside the front door.
“We are heartbroken.
“We are a tight-knit community and these are two fantastic young men with their whole lives ahead of them.
“Bright, sporting, academic men, who had their whole lives ahead of them,” Mr Kelleher continued.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of families this morning plunged into deep, deep sadness because of what has occurred and again we are reeling with it.
“It’s exactly the nightmare that every parent dreads when group holidays and big groups of children go away.
“You just don’t want to get that 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.”
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.
Minister for Education Norma Foley said on Monday that there are “no words” to describe the heartbreaking news.
“Heartfelt sympathies to the school community at St Michael’s College and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Andrew, Max and their classmates.”
Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said on Twitter that her thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and school community at St Michael’s, and has written to the school to extend her condolences.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman confirmed it is aware of both cases and is providing consular assistance.