Classmates of Irishman killed in Greek fires set up fundraising page
‘We had to run for our lives’: Irish teenager describes night of panic fleeing from fires
Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp and Zoe Holohan were in Mati, about 30km east of Athens, when a devastating fire hit the small resort town.
Classmates of the Irishman who died in Greek wildfires this week have set up a fundraising page in his memory.
Students from the MBA course at the National College of Ireland have set up a GoFundMe page with a target of €5,000.
The couple were married last Thursday in a small outdoor ceremony on the grounds of Clonabreany House in Kells, Co Meath.
On Saturday morning, the pair flew to Greece but, barely two days later, they found themselves caught up in apocalyptic scenes as wildfires swept through the town and down to the sea.
They tried to flee to the safety of the sea nearby but became separated in the mayhem.
The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp had been killed in the blaze.
Ms Holohan made it to the water after suffering serious burns, but her husband could not be found.
All money raised will go to Ms Holohan, who remains in hospital after suffering burns to her head and hands.
She is expected to make a full recovery, but will likely remain in Greece for treatment for some time.
In a statement on the Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp Memorial page, his classmates say:
“Brian was a natural leader who represented our class during our MBA journey. His enthusiasm, passion and zest for life were infectious... His focus and drive were inspirational to all whom he encountered.
“Brian’s life was lost too soon and too young, and he leaves a hole in our hearts. We will never forget his larger than life personality, his laughter and spirit that carried us all at times.”
‘We had to run for our lives’
Meanwhile, an Irish teenager holidaying with her boyfriend in the Greek resort of Mati when the wildfires closed in around their hotel has spoken of their panic as they feared they would not be returning home alive.
Chloe Sugrue (19) from Cahirciveen, Co Kerry and Sean Davis from Finglas, Dublin, were on the second day of their holiday when they first spotted fires on the mountains above their hotel.
“In a matter of ten minutes it was ‘get out of your hotel and get onto the beach’ because the fire had started coming down really quickly,” she told Newstalk.
“It was very fast coming down that mountain and the smoke was unbelievable.
“We really only had ourselves, our phones and our wallets and it was run down to the beach - for your life, really.”
The shoreline was about two minutes away. When they arrived they found more than 100 people already there.
She thought they could be in the end moments of their lives but “I didn’t want to let the fear take over too much.”
The young couple huddled together on the beach for more than eight hours as night fell. They were without any news as to what was happening around them.
“All you could see was fire unfolding all along he coastline, it was beside our hotel, in front of our hotel,” she said.
Emergency services landed at about 1.30am to take them to the Port of Rafina, but they decided not to go because there was a fire there too.
They waited another hour for the roads to open and it was safe to go back to their hotel.
They stayed at the hotel for the remainder of the night and while the manager reassured them in the morning that they were safe to stay on, they didn’t feel safe, grabbed their luggage and left for Athens.
“The whole town of Mati is gone, it is leveled,” she said.
Even in the capital, there was a palpable sense of grief and unease.
“People were so on edge,” she said. “Any little sirens or anything, people were really jumpy.”
Ms Sugrue said she was “absolutely shocked” to hear reports the wildfires may have been started deliberately.