Leaving Cert students had received ‘excellent’ exam results hours before fatal crash

Two principals have paid tribute to Leaving Cert students who received their State exam results hours before a fatal crash in Co Tipperary.

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”.

Co Tipperary fatal crash
Michael O’ Loughlin, principal of Presentation Secondary School Clonmel and Anne McGrath, principal of Loreto Secondary School paid tribute to the students (Damien Storan/PA)

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.

“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.”

Co Tipperary fatal crash
Luke McSweeney, 24, his sister Grace, 18, Nicole Murphy, 18, and Zoey Coffey, 18, all died in the crash (Family handout/PA)

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 and 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”.