Irish man killed in Greek wildfires was a ‘selfless volunteer’

Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp and wife Zoe Holohan caught up in Greek wildfires

 Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp who died in wildfires in Greece, and his wife Zoe Holohan. Photo: Facebook page of Brian O’Callaghan Westropp

Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp who died in wildfires in Greece, and his wife Zoe Holohan. Photo: Facebook page of Brian O’Callaghan Westropp

 

An Irish honeymooner who died in the Greek wildfires was a selfless charity volunteer who may have gone to help others after making sure his new wife was safe, a friend has said.

Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp became separated from his wife Zoe Holohan as they fled the blaze which broke out in the town of Mati, about 30km from Athens, on Monday.

The pair were married at Clonabreany House in Kells, Co Meath, last Thursday before flying out to Greece for their honeymoon on Saturday.

Zoe Holohan on her wedding day in Co Meath. Photograph: Handout/PA Wire
Zoe Holohan on her wedding day in Co Meath. Photograph: Handout/PA Wire

Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp was “an absolute linchpin and keystone” in Blood Bikes East, a team of motorcyclists who voluntarily deliver emergency medical supplies, like blood and transplant tissue, to hospitals seven days a week.

Friend and fellow biker Franco De Bonis said everybody in the charity was “really shocked” but “to some degree we are not surprised” because he was type of person “who would give of himself, he would be thinking of others before himself.”

Speaking on Wednesday morning, before the fatality had been confirmed, Mr De Bonnis told Today with Miriam on RTÉ Radio: “We are really hopeful that he was is one of the undocumented injured people who will surface. But we are not surprised, for somebody to be involved in this, that it would be Brian.

“Because he would be the type of person who would make sure Zoe is safe and then go back to help others. He is selfless.

‘Uncertain time’

“There is a reason he got involved in Blood Bikes He is happy to give his time but also happy to think of others first in a situation like that.”

Mr De Bonis said “Zoe and Brian should be having the time of their lives” instead of this. “We at least know that Zoe is safe in hospital, being treated,” he told Newstalk.

“They were having a wonderful time. Our chairman Brendan Conroy was at the wedding and remarked this morning how happy they were and how joyous an occasion it was, how everybody was talking during the speeches about the very giving nature of Brian, how he would think of others before thinking of himself.”

Zoe Holohan and Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp on their wedding day in Co Meath. Photograph: Handout/PA Wire
Zoe Holohan and Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp on their wedding day in Co Meath. Photograph: Handout/PA Wire

Mr O’Callaghan-Westropp joined Blood Bikers East just over a year ago and wasn’t content with just delivering the emergency supplies 24/7, but wanted to get more involved in developing the charity. He joined the committee and was appointed secretary.

“He’s a big character, he got his hands dirty very quickly, really wanted to to get involved… it is second nature to him,” Mr De Bonis said.

“He is one of these big, big personalities who would have been looking forward to a wonderful time (in Greece), rest, relaxation — and here we are.”

Ms Holohan, who works in the advertising department at the Sunday World, is in hospital after suffering burns to her head and hands.

The couple, who live in Dublin, were travelling in a vehicle when they were forced to flee.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, the Holohan and O’Callaghan-Westropp families said: “We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of our family member, Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp.

“The families would respectfully appreciate privacy at this time as we grieve and as Zoe makes her recovery.

“Funeral arrangement will be announced at a later stage.”

At least 74 people have been killed after the fire through the resort town near Athens.