Irish teens killed in crash received 'excellent results'
27th August 2023

Irish teens killed in horror crash after celebrating exams received ‘excellent results’, reveal headteachers – as they say their schools are ‘covered in a cloud of sadness and devastation’

  • Luke McSweeney, 24, had been driving sister Grace, 18, to celebrate results
  • Grace’s two school friends, Nicole Murphy and Zoey Coffey, were also killed

Two principals have paid tribute to Leaving Cert students who received their State exam results hours before a fatal crash in Co Tipperary, noting that they received ‘excellent’ grades.

Zoey Coffey, Nicole Murphy, Grace McSweeney, all aged 18, and Grace’s 24-year-old brother Luke McSweeney, died at the scene after the car they were travelling in struck a wall and overturned in Clonmel.

The teenagers were on their way to a Leaving Cert results celebration when the crash occurred.

The principal of Presentation Secondary School, where Zoey and Grace had attended, said ‘a great day of celebration is now replaced by unbearable grief and a great sense of loss’.

Michael O’Loughlin said the school and town ‘are covered in a cloud of sadness and devastation’ in the wake of the deaths, and that all schools in the town had been ‘deeply affected’ by it.

The driver of the vehicle has been named by police as 24-year-old Luke McSweeney (left). His sister Grace McSweeney (right), 18, along with her two school friends were all killed in the horrific crash

Also in the car was Nicole Murphy (left), 18, and Zoey Coffey (right), 18. All four passengers were fatally injured in the accident in Co Tipperary

‘Our school community is in mourning today. No words can express our sorrow, our pain and our grief,’ he said.

‘Zoey and Grace were two beautiful students, loved by everybody who met them and achieved such excellent results on Friday. Both girls were absolutely thrilled with the results and were looking forward to new exciting times ahead.

‘Grace was a gentle and kind person. She was thoughtful, considerate, and hard working. Grace was a gifted gymnast and a dancer and a very good student who had a positive impact on everybody she encountered.

‘Zoey’s personality was warm and vibrant. She was funny, kind and really determined. Zoey was a diligent worker and was very popular with her peers and teachers, and was central to all aspects of school life in the Pres.’

Anne McGrath, principal of Loreto Secondary School where Nicole Murphy had attended, said she had received ‘excellent’ Leaving Certificate results on Friday.

She said Nicole had been ‘looking forward with excitement to starting the next phase of her young life’.

‘Nicole was a beautiful student, highly regarded by staff and students alike. During her time in Loreto, she developed into a young woman who was kind, gentle and witty, and she was a trusted and loyal friend.’

She added: ‘Yesterday’s celebrations are now replaced by unbearable grief and a sense of loss for the whole local community.

‘No words can express our sorrow, pain and grief.’

Loreto, Presentation Clonmel and other schools in the town opened on Saturday to help support students and their families in the wake of the crash.

Minister for education Norma Foley has pledged psychological and other ‘essential’ supports for students and staff in the area ‘over the coming period’.

The vehicle involved is believed to have lost control after it was travelling downhill and overturned near the entrance of the Hillview Sports Club.

Post-mortem examinations will take place in the next few days after the bodies were taken to Tipperary University Hospital.

Superintendent Kieran Ruane, of Clonmel garda station, also extended his sympathies to their families, who he said had appealed for privacy.

The scene at Hillview remains closed on Saturday to carry out a forensic examination and Mr Ruane said that heavy downpours would be among the factors that Garda investigators would consider.

Local schools in the town opened on Saturday to support students as the community comes to term with the tragedy.

Members of the community and local politicians expressed their shock at the tragedy, with local TD Mattie McGrath saying that ‘a time of celebration has turned to a time of devastation’.

He said Clonmel had been ‘left numbed’ by the loss and that it would ‘take some time to recover’, but that the community would rally around those grieving the losses.

Local sporting events and the Clonmel Pride parade, as well as other activities in the area, have been cancelled in the wake of the fatal crash.

A parish priest has asked the community to look after one another in the days ahead and the minister of education has pledged support for school staff and students affected.

A woman leaves flowers near to the scene of a fatal crash which claimed the lives of Luke McSweeney, 24, his sister Grace McSweeney, 18, Zoey Coffey, 18, and Nicole Murphy, 18

A man lays flowers near to the scene of a crash which claimed the lives of four young people in Clonmel, Co Tipperary

People look stand by flowers near to the scene of a fatal crash which claimed the lives of a brother, his sister, and her two friends who died in a crash in Clonmel, Co Tipperary while on the way to exam results celebrations on Friday

Superintendent Kieran Ruane of Clonmel Garda Station gives an update on the fatal crash which claimed the lives of four young people in Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar said the nation is mourning their deaths as the minister for education Norma Foley pledged support for students and staff.

‘Leaving Cert results night should mark the beginning of a world of opportunities for young people. It’s a milestone on the road from childhood to adulthood.

‘For young lives, so full of possibility, to be cut short in this way is truly devastating and heartbreaking. The whole nation mourns them.

‘My sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have died and the wider community in Clonmel and Tipperary. The thoughts of the whole country are with them, their school and their community.

‘I am assured that the school authorities and HSE will work together to put in place the necessary supports for their classmates and community. We must come together in times such as this.’

Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Ireland’s deputy leader and minister for foreign affairs said: ‘Deeply saddened by the tragic, heartbreaking loss of four young lives in Clonmel.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends, classmates, the first responders, and the entire community today.’

Police at the scene of the crash this morning where a 24-year-old man, and three 18-year-old girls were all fatally injured in car crash in Ireland

A Garda spokesperson revealed last night that the road will remain closed today while the scene is examined by forensic investigators 

It is believed that the vehicle lost control after it was travelling downhill and overturned before near the entrance of the Hillview Sports Club

An image of forensic collision investigators examining the scene of the crash this morning in Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Father Michael Toomey, administrator in the parishes of Ardfinnan, Ballybacon & Grange, said the victims’ families had expressed gratitude to the emergency services who attended the scene.

‘Sometimes no words seem adequate when a tragedy like what occurred in Clonmel tonight happens. No words can give comfort at this time,’ he said on Facebook.

‘My thoughts and prayers are with the families tonight who suffered a terrible loss in this terrible accident.

‘Being with them this evening, I know they are so grateful to all of the emergency services and to everyone who helped them this evening.

‘The local schools will be in touch tomorrow to help the entire community and to be there for everyone at this time.’

He added: ‘Of course, my thoughts and prayers are with the four young people who tragically lost their lives tonight, to their families, and their friends, on what should have been one of the happiest nights of their lives.

‘Please, look out for one another in these days, and don’t be afraid to look for help and support in the coming days.’

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