Irish rugby’s day of tragedy: U-20 team rocked by death of player’s dad and teens known by the squad
Ireland’s under-20 rugby union team is facing a deeply emotional day following two separate tragedies ahead of a crucial game against Fiji in the Rugby World Cup.
Last night one of the stars of the team, Jack Oliver, learned of the death of his father, Grieg Oliver, after he was killed in a horrific paragliding crash over Cape Town.
Oliver, 58, offmore Scotland rugby international, is believed to have drowned yesterday after being ‘smashed against rocks’ following the freak accident that saw him plunge into choppy waves.
Six of the U20 team, along with Andrew and Max, who were both 18 years old, had attended St Michael’s College in Dublin. The teens had just finished school before their tragic deaths.
In line for the national anthem ahead of this afternoon’s crunch game, grieving players stood arm in arm wearing black armbands on the pitch at South Africa’s Danie Craven Stadium.
The Irish team performs the black belt national anthem in honor of Grieg Oliver and two Irish students, Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall, at South Africa’s Danie Craven Stadium
Munster rugby coach and former Scotland international Greig Oliver, 58, (pictured) has died following a paragliding crash
Jack Oliver arrives at South Africa’s Danie Craven Stadium ahead of today’s U20 match between Ireland and Fiji. Jack learned that his father died in a paragliding accident yesterday
Recent graduates Andrew O’Donnell (left) and his classmate Max Wall (right), both 18 and from the same school, died in separate tragic incidents over the weekend
Prior to announcing Oliver’s death, coach Richie Murphy said his squad was “hugely devastated” by the death of the two boys.
“I think the guys are definitely in a bit of shock, obviously very devastated about what happened,” he said.
“I think that goes for the whole squad, these guys obviously know the young guys a lot better than some of the other members. Everyone is in the same kind of position where it’s shock. We’ve got our doctor on hand, he’s looking after the boys.’
Murphy continued, “We’ve had some conversations with a few of them and the guys were obviously very upset yesterday but definitely felt a little better today and probably couldn’t accept it but clarified what’s going on in their heads. .’
Captain Diarmuid Mangan added: “Many guys in our squad would have known the two guys.
“Everyone is just trying to get around the guys and make sure they’re okay and they get caught. It is clearly a terrible tragedy and we send our condolences to the two families.”
18-year-old high school student Andrew O’Donnell, pictured with the family dog
Tributes have been paid to the two teenagers, Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall, as “smart, athletic, academic” young men
The two 18-year-olds were on a post-exam holiday to celebrate the end of high school with dozens of classmates who have now flown home after being left “traumatized.”
O’Donnell is said to have fallen and hit his head as he walked home along some cliffs to his hotel after a night out in Hora, the capital of Ios, on Saturday morning.
O’Donnell’s body was found on Sunday morning and news of his death later that day caused his friend Wall to collapse in shock.
According to local media, the youngster had heart problems.
The boys’ devastated parents have traveled to Greece to bring their remains home, while their traumatized classmates return to Ireland today via Bristol.
Hours later, Jack Oliver learned of his father Grieg Oliver’s death in a paragliding crash.
Oliver, who had been an elite performance officer at Ireland’s Munster rugby union club, was just 58 years old. The proud father had been to South Africa to support his son Jack and the Ireland squad at the Rugby U20 World Championships.
During a tandem flight from Signal Hill overlooking the coast of Cape Town in South Africa, two pilots collided in mid-air over Sea Point Promenade, a popular tourist area.
Oliver was reportedly a passenger on a tandem flight over the coast of Cape Town in South Africa when his craft crashed into another tandem paraglider. He made three appearances for Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s
Heartbreaking footage has emerged of Ireland U20 rugby player Jack Oliver as he prepares for a World Cup match against Fiji today
The paragliders with a view take off from Lions Head and Signal Hill of Camps Bay below and the Twelve Apostles mountain range
Rescue swimmers and paramedics at Rocklands Beach, Cape Town, who recovered the body of former Scottish scrum half Greig Oliver, 58.
Oliver’s pilot deployed a reserve parachute and landed safely in the sea, but Greig was unable to recover from the crash and landed near shore.
An eyewitness told MailOnline: “I saw a paraglider above the water eject its second parachute about 50 meters up and 50 meters into the sea.
“Both people fell into the water and we all ran to the wall. The waves were big and the two men were knocked against the rocks.’
Louis Stanford, president of the South African Hang-gliding and Paragliding Association (SAHPA), said Greig’s death was the country’s first tandem fatality in more than two decades.
‘Normally, these tandem operations are performed safely within strict parameters. This is a very sad accident and the Civil Aviation Authority will investigate.’
Following the double tragedy for the Irish side, a minute’s silence was held ahead of their match against Fiji at the Dannie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch, and will take place at all other Championship matches this afternoon.
Jack Oliver was due to start from the bench this afternoon, but has now been removed from the squad.