A boy (12) who died when the car he was driving collided head-on with an articulated truck in Co Limerick on Friday morning was a popular first-year student whose death has caused “great sadness” in his school.
The boy, named locally as Wiktor Chojecki, from Newcastle West, Co Limerick, was driving a grey-coloured Nissan Qashqai owned by his family when it collided with a heavy goods truck.
Gardaí have appealed for witnesses and dash-cam footage after the collision on the N21 at Rineroe near Adare shortly before 2am. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene and the car was destroyed.
The child, whose mother, Ewa, and father, Bartosc, settled in Newcastle West after emigrating from their native Poland, was a first-year student attending Scoil Mhuire agus Íde in the town.
Principal Sean Lane of Scoil Mhuire agus Íde said the boy started secondary school last September and that he was popular among pupils and teachers.
“Wiktor is sadly missed, his lots of friends in the school are upset this morning after hearing the tragic news, and the family are in Newcastle West for many, many years and are very much part of the community,” said Mr Lane.
“It’s such a tragic loss and we are supporting our students in the school community today. Our critical incident management plan was implemented where we had our year heads, class tutors, and our counsellors in school, working with the students; we also had the NEPS (National Educational Psychological Service) psychologists in the school today to support all students across the whole school who may be affected by the tragedy.”
“We were all very shocked and upset to learn of the tragedy this morning and it’s very hard for our students to put into words how they are feeling, but there is great sadness and shock amongst all the school community,” he said.
Paying tribute to the boy, Mr Lane said: “He was very well liked and he mixed well with students and with staff members, and there are a number of staff members who are particularly upset because he would have had chats with them every day. A lot of our students who would have been at primary school with him are also very upset, especially across our first-year group.”
Ewa and Bartosc Chojecki were being comforted by family and friends and a large Polish community in Newcastle West.
Gardaí and emergency services were alerted to the fatal crash just before 2am and discovered the boy deceased and trapped in the car.
Emergency service workers used cutting tools to free the boy from the car and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the lorry, a man in his 40s, was not injured and was being treated for severe shock. The boy was the sole occupant of the car.
Gardaí were keeping an open mind as to the circumstances that led to the boy being behind the wheel of the car in the early hours of the morning, and a Garda source said investigating officers were treating it as a tragic accident.
Gardaí were working on the theory that the boy took the car for a spin without his family’s knowledge. The boy’s family were described by several sources as “decent” and “hard working” people. His body was removed to University Hospital Limerick for a postmortem.
On Friday afternoon, the parish priest of Adare, Msgr Dan Neenan, who said prayers at the scene, said the local community was in shock.
Fr Neenan said he had been called to the scene at 4am by gardaí. “It was obvious he was dead so I said prayers,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
Fr Neenan remained at the scene until the parents of the boy arrived. “They were obviously so shocked and were incredibly dignified.”
The parents were given a few minutes alone with their son after which they spoke and prayed with Fr Neenan. When leaving the scene the boy’s mother spoke to and thanked all the emergency personnel for their services.
Local Fine Gael councillor Adam Teskey said the tight-knit rural community had been plunged into sadness and shock: “I would like to express my sincere sympathy and condolences to the family, and I want to express my sincere gratitude to the emergency first responders.
“But also, our thoughts are with the driver of the lorry for what he witnessed and must have seen last night, it must have been harrowing for him.
“There are a lot of people in the boy’s age group that have lost a friend and there is a pupil missing from his school desk today, so obviously he has friends that will be mourning his grief and his loss.”
Traffic diversions were put in place near the scene on the N21, with Limerick city-bound traffic diverted from the village of Adare via Croom.
Gardaí appealed for any witnesses to the collision to come forward, and any road users who may have camera footage (including dash-cam) and were travelling on the N21 near Adare at the time of the collision are asked to make this footage available to gardaí.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Newcastle West Garda station on 069-20650, the Garda confidential line on 1800-666111 or any Garda station.