Wildfire victim’s mother already lost son and husband tragically
‘Rosemary is well used to tragedy,’ says family friend and priest Fr Shea Casey
Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp, who died while on his honeymoon after becoming caught up in wildfires that have swept across Greece. Photograph: Blood Bank East/PA Wire
The grieving mother of an Irish honeymooner killed in the Greek wildfires lost her other son to a motorcycle crash 20 years ago, a family friend has said.
Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp’s mother Rosemary, from Killaloe in Co Clare, was also widowed when her husband died while her two boys were still young, Fr Shea Casey said.
The priest, a chaplain at Athlone Institute of Technology, got to know the family after Brian’s brother Colin started at the college in the 1990s, and was part of the chaplaincy team there manning a 24/7 helpline for students.
“They were two incredible young lads,” he said.
“Rosemary was extraordinarily proud of them. It is heartbreaking . She is a very strong woman. It isn’t the first time Rosemary has stood at the foot of the Cross.”
‘Rosemary is well used to tragedy’
Colin died in March 1997, aged just 21, when his motorbike was in collision with a car near Roscrea, Co Tipperary. He had been travelling back to Athlone at the time.
“There was only two boys in the family,” Fr Casey told RTÉ Radio.
“They lived in Killaloe. Rosemary, their mum, is well used to tragedy. Her husband died when the boys were quite young.
“She brought them up very well - they were lovely lads. Very caring. They were lads you know - great fun. Colin was the life and soul of life in the college. We miss him to this day.”
Fr Casey said he spoke with Ms O’Callaghan-Westropp on Wednesday.
“They had just found the body at that time. She rang me back to tell me they had found his body. She was heading to Athens to identify him and hoping to bring him back to be buried in Killaloe,” he said.
Fr Casey said Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp had called to see him just six months ago “full of enthusiasm and zest for life”.
“Life always just opening up for him,” he said.
“All the family were terribly outgoing and full of life, really enthusiastic for life, they just took it by the scruff of the neck, did everything with a full heart.
“And they saw the needs of others around them. If he saw somebody in need, he wouldn’t be slow to help them - just a very generous soul.
“That was how they were reared. That is how Rosemary wanted them to be.”
Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp and his wife Zoe Holohan were in Mati, about 30km east of Athens, when a blaze closed in on them.
The newly-weds were holidaying after their marriage last Thursday in Kells, Co Meath.
They were trying to flee to the safety of the sea when they became separated.
Ms Holohan, who works in the advertising department at the Sunday World, is in hospital after suffering burns to her head and hands.
Her husband for six days was a student at the National College of Ireland in Dublin where he was in the final stages of an MBA and had the role of class representative.
He also volunteered with Blood Bikes East, a team of motorcyclists who voluntarily deliver emergency medical supplies, like blood and transplant tissue, to hospitals seven days a week.
The organisation described him as “an absolute linchpin and keystone” of the operation who was “selfless” in helping others.