Death of Irishman in Greek wildfires is second tragedy to befall family

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp, who died while on his honeymoon after becoming caught up in wildfires that have swept across Greece. Picture by Blood Bank East, Press Association

THE death of a newly married Irishman caught up in a wildfire while on honeymoon in Greece is the second tragedy to hit his family.

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp, who was originally from Co Clare, died after becoming separated from his new wife Zoe Holohan as they tried to escape the wildfires which swept the coastal town of Mati.

Fr Shay Casey, chaplain at Athlone Institute of Technology and friend of the O'Callaghan-Westropp family, said the family had been struck by tragedy before.

Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp's only brother, Colin died in a motorbike crash when he was just 21.

"Colin was tragically killed as well, in a motorbike accident coming back up to the house here in March 1997," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"And I've got to know the whole family, I knew them before that as Colin was living here and he used to stay with my family a lot.

"Colin was only 21 or 22 when he died and it was tragic at that time."

Zoe Holohan and Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp on their wedding day in Co Meath. Picture by PA Wire

Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp died just days after he and his wife had wed in Kells, Co Meath.

Ms Holohan suffered burns to her head and hands after being able to reach a nearby beach as the couple tried to escape the wildfires.

Fr Casey said Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp's mother had flown to Athens hoping to bring her son back to be buried in Killaloe, Co Clare.

The priest said the brothers were part of part of a family that were "terribly outgoing and full of life, enthusiastic for life and really took it by the scruff of the neck".

"They done (sic) everything with a full heart and just got on with it and saw the needs of the people around them," he said.

"Definitely, if he saw someone in need, he wouldn't be slow to help them.

"A generous soul, that's just how they were reared, that's the way Rosemarie would've wanted them to be."

A member of a rescue team searches a burned house in Mati, east of Athens, following the deadliest wildfires to hit Greece in decades. Picture by Thanassis Stavrakis, Associated Press

Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp was well-known for his volunteer work with Blood Bikes East and was employed by the catering company, the Ready Chef.

"Brian was a larger than life individual in both his personal and professional life," the company said.

"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."

At least 80 people have died, and a search continues for survivors who fled the blaze.

Rescue crews and volunteers are continuing to search on land and at sea for potential further victims from Greece's deadliest forest fires for decades, which began when a fire broke out north-east of Athens in the area of Rafina before sweeping through the area fanned by gale-force winds.

Frantic relatives looking for missing loved ones have also been visiting the morgue in Athens.

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