Hundreds of people attended a vigil, Sunday, held in memory of a 12-year-old boy who died while driving a car that collided with a lorry last Friday.
Wiktor Chojecki, from Newcastle West, Co Limerick, died in the 2am impact at Rineroe, situated just outside Adare village.
The circumstances which led to the boy being behind the wheel of his family’s Nissan Qashqai, as well as the route he travelled, and the moments prior to the fatal collision, remain under investigation by Gardaí.
A shrine of floral tributes marked the collision site, situated along a stretch of the N21, on the Limerick side of Adare, about 23km from the boy’s home.
Gardaí said the boy was the only occupant of the car, and that the lorry driver was not injured.
Part of the garda investigation will incorporate the examination of electronic devices in the hope it may provide clues as to what led the boy to driving a car in the early hours of the morning and on one of the country’s busiest roads.
Wiktor was a very popular and friendly boy, his secondary school principal, Sean Lane said Friday, and this was reflected in the large turnout at the “Brighten Up The Sky for Wiktor Chojecki” vigil, held in the town square in Newcastle West.
Dozens of coloured balloons were released in unison into the sky from the 300-strong crowd that gathered in the town’s main square.
A message on one of the balloons, which summed up how many would like to remember Wiktor, read: “For a little angel, dearly loved...”
Joe Aherne, from the nearby village of Athea, said he attended the vigil to “show solidarity with the family”.
Becoming emotional, Mr Aherne, 76, offered: “It’s a sad occasion, it could happen to anybody, unfortunately a young child has died, and I have children and grandchildren, so it hits the spot”.
“The community is devastated, I don't know the family but, it is tough,” Mr Aherne said, fighting back tears.
Local parent, Jennifer McGroarty, whose daughter is one of Wiktor’s classmates, said everyone in the town was “so sad”.
“My daughter would have been friends with Wiktor since the beginning of primary school, so we are all just absolutely shocked; we can’t believe it,” Ms McGroarty said.
“I think it is nice that he has a good turnout here today, the craythur, and you think if it can happen to his family then it can happen to any of us. They are such lovely people, nice, hard-working people, and that’s why we are all in such shock”.
“Some people might not have known Wiktor, but again, the Polish community is a massive community here, so we all know someone that will know the family, and there is just a sadness, a heaviness among everyone, with a lump in our throats and in the pit of our stomach.”
“He was a lovely chap, a lovely little chap, even my youngest daughter said that whenever he talked to her he was kind.”
“The family are well known in town, very popular, and we are supporting his family, we just have to do the best to be here for them if they need it.”
Scoil Mhuire agus Ide, where Wiktor attended, has provided counselling supports for his classmates, as well as all students and teachers whose mental health may be impacted.
Ms McGroarty said: “The school have been very good with giving us tools to deal with grief, which there will be, and when to expect it, it could be months down the line, so they were good in fairness, so we are just keeping an eye out and hoping to god that everyone will all be OK.”
United in grief
Eileen Little, whose daughter is also one of Wiktor’s classmates, said: “We are shocked, it’s so sad, I think everybody has the same sentiment really, and that’s why everyone has shown up today in support of Wiktor’s mam and dad and his sister and all his family and friends.”
Local youths attending the vigil buried their heads together in a scrum, united in grief, sharing the loss of a friend and classmate, as their balloons floated skywards.
Gardai have asked anyone with information or witnesses to contact Newcastle West Garda Station (06920650).
"Gardaí are appealing for any road users who may have camera footage (including dash-cam) and were travelling on the N21 near Adare area at the time of the collision, to make this footage available to Gardaí," said a garda spokesman.
Wiktor, who is survived by his parents and his sister, will be laid to rest Thursday, at Calvary Cemetery, Newcastle West, immediately following his funeral mass at the local Church of the Immaculate Conception.