Family travel to retrieve body of GAA player (26)
RELATIVES of an Irish student teacher killed in a fall while hiking up a volcano have arrived in Central America to help repatriate his body.
Michael McLean (26) from the Fruithill area of west Belfast died in the arms of his brother after falling and hitting his head during a guided expedition on Sunday.
The well-known GAA player had only recently qualified and was hoping to pursue a career in teaching following a summer adventure across America.
He and his younger brother, Conor (24) had begun their travels in Boston and had been in Nicaragua for several days when the accident happened.
Yesterday, Michael's mother, Marie, described him as a "much loved son, brother, uncle and friend to many".
"He was a very popular figure and will be sadly missed by a huge number of people," she said.
"The circumstances of his death overseas are difficult for the family. We hope to have his body home as quickly as possible and in the meantime we would respectfully ask for privacy."
A post-mortem has taken place and last night his siblings, Roisin and Martin, touched down in Nicaragua to provide comfort and support to Conor. It is understood the family are being given consular assistance from the British Embassy in Costa Rica.
It is not yet known when Michael's remains will be flown back to Belfast, however, a close family friend said he believed it could be as early as tomorrow.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said they had not received any requests for consular assistance.
Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey was among those leading the tributes.
"Michael was very active in the community and very highly thought of," he said.
"His work in St Agnes GAA club as both secretary and coach clearly made a positive impression on the many people he came into contact with."
Tributes have also flooded in from members of the Andersonstown GAA club where Michael was a keen footballer and hurler.
A statement on St Anges's website read: "Micheal was a gentleman and a true gael, he will be sadly missed by all that knew him, a keen footballer and hurler, and a short spell as club secretary ensures that Michael will always be remembered in the history of St Agnes GAC and the hearts of our members.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire McLean family circle at this time and especially with Conor, his parents, Marie and Laurence, his sisters, Patricia, Roisin and Louise and brother, Martin."