Tributes paid to ‘selfless’ Irishman killed in Greek wildfires

Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp died while on honeymoon with wife Zoe Holohan

Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp was on his honeymoon with his new wife Zoe Holohan in Mati when a devastating fire hit the town on Monday.

Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp was on his honeymoon with his new wife Zoe Holohan in Mati when a devastating fire hit the town on Monday.

 

Tributes have been paid to the “selfless” Irishman who was killed in the Greek wildfires less than five days after his wedding, including one from TV3 presenter Alan Hughes, a close friend of the deceased.

Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp married Zoe Holohan in Kells last Thursday and the couple were just days into their honeymoon in Mati, about 30km east of Athens, when a devastating fire tore through the town on Monday.

In an emotional tribute online, Hughes, the Ireland AM presenter, said his “heart is breaking” for Ms Holohan after her husband was killed in the Greek fires.

Sharing a picture of the group of friends taken at their wedding, Hughes said O’Callaghan-Westropp was a “friendly, warm guy, ready with open arms for a bear hug”.

“We can’t believe it was this day last week that we shared in their beautiful wedding. Our hearts are breaking for Zoe, who’s such a beautiful person . . . and indeed Brian’s mother, their family and friends. Alan and Karl xxx’”.

The couple had fled towards the sea in a desperate bid to escape the flames, but became separated. Ms Holohan made it to the water after suffering serious burns, but her husband could not be found.

He was confirmed dead by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday evening.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his sympathies to the dead man’s family on Thursday. Speaking in Rome, Mr Varadkar said he had written to Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras “to express our condolence to the Greek people and offer any assistance that we can”.

“My condolences absolutely go to his family,” he said, adding that “for a tragedy to visit a family in this way must be truly awful. Our assistance through our embassy in Athens is being offered to the family.”

‘Friend and mentor’

The Ready Chef catering company where Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp worked issued a statement in which it said it was “distraught at the death of one of our own”. He was “many things to us, he was a friend and a mentor but most importantly he was a part of our family.

“He has always been someone who provided us with guidance, someone we looked up to and respected, and someone who has now left a gaping hole in the heart of our family.”

Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp’s mother Rosemary, from Killaloe in Co Clare, lost her other son to a motorcycle crash 20 years ago, and was widowed when her husband died while her two boys were still young, family friend Fr Shea Casey said.

“They were two incredible young lads,” he said on RTÉ radio. “Rosemary was extraordinarily proud of them. It is heart-breaking . She is a very strong woman. It isn’t the first time Rosemary has stood at the foot of the Cross.”

She has gone to Athens to identify her son’s body and to bring him back to Killaloe for burial, Fr Casey.

Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp also volunteered with Blood Bikes East, a team of motorcyclists who voluntarily deliver emergency medical supplies, such as blood and transplant tissue, to hospitals seven days a week.

The organisation described him as “an absolute linchpin and keystone” of the operation.

Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp was an MBA student at the National College of Ireland in Dublin. Ms Holohan, who works in the advertising department at the Sunday World, 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.

The family have asked for privacy and said details of his repatriation and funeral arrangements will be announced in the days ahead.