The four young people killed in a tragic road crash in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, have been named.
Grace McSweeney, Nicole Murphy and Zoey Coffey (all 18) were en route to a post-Leaving Certificate party in Carlow town, while a brother of Grace, Luke McSweeney (24), was driving.
The car hit a wall on Mountain Road and overturned.
Ms McSweeney and Ms Coffey are past pupils of Presentation College in Clonmel, Nicole Murphy attended the Loreto Secondary School and Mr McSweeney is a past pupil of Clonmel High School.
Presentation College principal Michael O’Loughlin paid tribute to the two former pupils who died. Both had recieved their Leaving Certificate results and were looking forward to new chapters in their lives.
“A day of celebration is now replaced by unbearable grief and a sense of great loss for our local community. Our school community is in mourning today,” he said.
“No words can express our sorry, pain and grief. Zoey and Grace were two beautiful students loved by everyone who met them achieved such excellent results on Friday.”
Ms Coffey was a “gentle and kind person”; Ms McSweeney was a “gifted gymnast and dancer and a very good student who had a positive impact on everyone she encountered”.
Loreto principal Anne McGrath described Nicole Murphy as a “beautiful student, highly regarded by staff and students alike”. During her time in the school, she developed into a “young woman who was kind, gentle and witty and was a trusted and loyal friend.
Ms McGrath went on to state that all those associated with the school were “devastated” by the loss of Ms Murphy. She said they were particularly thinking of Ms Murphy’s parents Serena and Declan, her older sister Zoey, who is also a past-pupil of Loreto and her brother Ryan.
The pupils of all the secondary schools in Clonmel have all been offered psychological help. “The schools have been open all day for the friends and their families.”
The walls of the Loreto school are just metres from where the crash occurred on Friday night. They have been turned into a makeshift shrine. During the afternoon Loretto pupils wearing matching lilac class of 23 sweatshirts laid flowers at the wall. One person brought four candles to remember each of the victims and laid four yellow roses beside them.
The remains of all the deceased were removed from the scene last night to Tipperary University Hospital. An Garda Síochána have notified the local coroner and postmortems will be carried out over the coming days at Waterford University Hospital.
A vigil is to be held in Denis Burke Park in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, in memory of the four, Fr Michael Toomey has said.
The event begins at 6.30pm and prayers will be led by local clergy and the Mayor of Clonmel, Councillor Richie Molloy.
A book of condolences will be opened in council offices from 11am on Monday morning.
Speaking at the crash site, Superintendent Kieran Ruane from Clonmel Garda station expressed condolences on behalf of the force to the families of the deceased.
It was especially tragic, he said, given the importance of the Leaving Certificate night in the lives of most Irish people.
He said the scene was “very difficult in adverse weather conditions” and he thanked the emergency services involved.
Supt Ruane added that the weather in the area was very bad at the time of the crash which was around 7.30pm. There had been a significant downpour in the area and the theory that the car skidded on surface water is being considered as part of the investigation.
He confirmed that somebody had sent up an active drone when the emergency services were at the scene.
It was “disrespectful to the deceased [and] to the first responders”, he said and he asked the drone owner to hand over the footage of the crash scene to gardaí.
President Michael D Higgins led tributes to the four young people killed in the crash. “The hearts of all parents and relatives, indeed the whole community, will have gone out to the families of Zoey Coffey, Nicole Murphy and Luke and Grace McSweeney, who lost their lives in a traffic accident in Co Tipperary last night,” the President said in a statement.
“The grief that has been expressed by the community is nearly unbearable and I send my deepest sympathies to their families, their whole community, those in their year in school and the whole school, its pupils and management.”
The Taoiseach offered condolences to the families and friends of the four young people. “It is with deep sadness that I learned of the tragic incident in Clonmel last night,” Leo Varadkar said in a statement.
“Leaving Cert results night should mark the beginning of a world of opportunities for young people. It’s a milestone on the road from childhood to adulthood. For young lives, so full of possibility, to be cut short in this way is truly devastating and heartbreaking. The whole nation mourns them.
Norma Foley, the Minister for Education, said her department, through the National Educational Psychological Service, would provide “essential supports” to staff and students over the coming period.
“The grief felt by those affected by the loss of four young lives is acute and we will do all that we can to support them at this sad and difficult time,” she said.
The four were travelling from Mountain Road on the outskirts of the town to meet the bus which was due to take them into a post-Leaving Certificate event in Carlow town.
The upturned car remains at the scene. The crash happened after a slight bend in the road and at the entrance to a sports club.
Cllr Molloy, the Mayor, said there were thunderstorms in the area at the time and there was a lot of surface water which may have caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
Cllr Molloy said the town is “numb” as a result of what happened and it was especially shocking given that most of the Leaving Certificate students were celebrating their results.
“It’s shocking that in a matter of hours such a tragedy like this occurs. It reminds us how quickly life can take a turn. When you are 17 or 18, you think that life is never going to end.”
Fr Toomey, the chaplain of the CBS High School in Clonmel, said the town will never “come to terms” with the events of Friday night. “It is riven through the whole community, the shock has been absolutely massive. Our prayers are with the family.”
The schools have opened to allow students to pay their own respects. Bouquets of flowers have been left at the gates of the school and also at the entrance to Mountain Road which remains closed off.
Mr Toomey praised the emergency services for dealing with such a difficult scene. He urged people not to share social media footage of the aftermath of the crash or drone footage that was shot shortly afterwards.
Mountain Road is closed to traffic with local diversions in place. The road was expected to remain closed into Saturday.
Garda Forensic Collision Investigators are carrying out an investigation of the scene on Saturday. An incident room has been established at Clonmel Garda station and a senior investigating officer has been appointed to lead the investigation.