By Evelyn Ring and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
The mother of Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp, the Irishman who died in a wildfire in Greece, has lost both her sons in the last 20 years.
Fr Shay Casey, chaplain at Athlone Institute of Technology and a friend of the family, said Brian’s younger brother Colin died in a motorbike crash at the age of 21 in 1997.
Fr Casey said their mother, Rosemary, is no stranger to tragedy — her husband died when her children were quite young.
Brian and his wife, Zoe Holohan, were on their honeymoon in the coastal town of Mati when the fires engulfed the area.
The couple got married a week ago and had flown out to Greece on Saturday.
Zoe, who is from Dublin, remains in hospital after suffering burns to her head and hands.
They were travelling in a vehicle when they were forced to flee. The couple became separated and Zoe escaped to a nearby beach.
Brian was from Killaloe in Co Clare but the couple were living and working in Dublin. His mother travelled to Athens on Wednesday to identify her son’s body and make arrangements to bring him back to be buried in Killaloe.
Fr Casey said all the family were very outgoing and did everything “with a full heart”. If Colin or Brian saw somebody in need they would help them and were both generous souls, he said.
“That is how Rosemary would have wanted them to be,” he said. “Two incredibly young lads and Rosemary was extremely proud of them.”
Fr Casey said he knew Colin because he was part of the institute’s chaplaincy.
Fr Casey described Rosemary as a very strong woman, “a kind of stoic woman”, and asked people to pray for her and the family at this time.
Brian was a member of Blood Bikes East, which provides a free emergency medical transport service around hospitals in Dublin.
Paying tribute in a post on its Facebook page, Blood Bikes East described Brian as a diligent colleague and dear friend, adding that they would miss his huge personality and infectious smile.
“His no-nonsense, can-do approach to the work of volunteering meant that he helped Blood Bikes East to become the professional organisation we are today,” they wrote. “Despite it being a year and three months as a Blood Bikes East volunteer, it feels like he was involved for so much longer, and his influence will last for decades to come.
Members of Blood Bikes East are all volunteers and all money raised is used to run the motorbikes and keep them in a safe and roadworthy condition.
The organisation also expressed condolences to Brian’s wife, his family, and friends.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD for Dublin West where Brian lived, said “For a tragedy to visit a family in this way must be truly awful.”
Mr Varadkar has written to the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, expressing the Government’s condolences to the Greek people and offering assistance to those affected.