First pics of two kids killed in Rhodes parasailing tragedy that left third critical


The two teenage cousins killed in a parasailing tragedy on Greek island Rhodes that left a third child critically injured have been pictured.

Witnesses say the mum of one of two Brit teens who died in a parasailing tragedy on holiday in Greece fainted as her surviving son was rushed to hospital.

She is said to have cried “where are the other two children” as the three teens’ parasailing boat failed to return to shore.

Cousins Jessica Hayes, 15, and Michael Connelly, 13, died after reportedly falling 400ft onto a rockface in Rhodes when the rope holding their parasailing canopy snapped.

Michael’s 15-year-old brother, James Connelly, survived but is fighting for his life in hospital.

The victims’ family paid tribute to their “beautiful” and “talented” children, as witnesses described the heartbreaking scenes on the beach in Wednesday’s tragedy.

The three teenagers were said to have been found on rocks near the village of Lindos, but only an injured James was brought back to the beach at first, leaving his family panicking, according to witnesses.

Eyewitnesses claimed Michael and James’ mother fainted in shock as she pleaded to know what had happened to the children, a local report said.

The Greek coastguard later told reporters two of the children were found dead on the rocks near Cape Gina, while the third was found alive but gravely injured nearby by firefighters.

The mum reportedly collapsed as her older son, James, was brought ashore then taken away by ambulance, crying: “Where are the other two children,” reports Protothema.

Jessica’s dad, Tony Hayes, from Kettering, Northants, said his heart was broken at the loss of his “special, beautiful” daughter, Jessica alongside her cousin.

Mr Hayes said the family’s sunny, idyllic day sitting at the beach waving children off on their parasailing adventure turned to ‘chaos’ without warning.

He said when the teen’ boat failed to return to shore the family were not told anything at first.

Mr Hayes told The Sun of his anguish that doctors had at first told them the children were badly hurt.

The devastated dad claimed the local police came to get the children’s passports – but wouldn’t tell them why, as they begged for information.

He claims it was not until four hours later that they were told Jessica and Michael were already dead.

He later realised they had taken the passports to identify the cousins’ bodies.

Mr Hayes told the newspaper from the hospital in Rhodes the family had been allowed to keep false hope.

He said: “I said, ‘Please just tell me what’s going on? Are they alive?’ They took the passports to identify the bodies. But they wouldn’t tell us. It was four hours until we were able to find out what happened. They put us through misery for four hours.”

He said he had been forced to identify his daughter’s body, telling reporters the family was ‘not doing well’ following the shocking double-tragedy.

He called for an urgent investigation into how the incident happened.

The age limit for parasailing in the region is reported to be 16, while the use of three-seater parachutes was banned last year.

Witnesses raised concerns about the windy weather on the day, and the length of the rope during the parasailing that day, according to local reports.

The Greek coastguard said two people connected with the speedboat have been arrested, according to the PA News Agency.

Michael’s parents paid tribute to their boy and his cousin, both from Corby, Northants, in a statement to the Northamptonshire Telegraph.

The Connelly family said: “Mikey was the most talented gentleman with charisma in spades.

“He never had a bad word to say about anyone and was always a popular kid at school and at his drama class.

“His target of winning two Oscars before he was 18 has tragically been snatched away from him, and his family and friends will never recover from his passing.

“The world is a much poorer place for Mikey not being in it.

“He has left with his beautiful cousin Jessica, who was adored by all who knew her – the brightest of bright stars with the world at her feet.

“She could have been anything she wanted, as smart as she was.

“Her loss leaves a hole in our family that will never be filled.”

The family asked people to pray for their son James, who they said remains on life support.

Jessica was a pupil at Uppingham Community College and the boys attended Kingswood Secondary Academy, the Northamptonshire Telegraph reported.

Jessica’s family said in a statement to the paper that their “hearts will never heal” and described their daughter as “beautiful”.

They said: “In a place where we were to spend some quality time as a family, we have suffered the most devastating loss.

“Jessica was a beautiful, bubbly young lady, who was extremely popular and loved by so many. Jess was always laughing with friends and loved a good giggle, with her beautiful smile.

“She had her best years ahead of her, she could have achieved anything she wanted. She was so clever, and so artistic.

“She loved nothing more than doing her own acrylic nails, and those of her friends, as well as being amazing with make-up.”

The family said Jessica “loved to bake and cook”, and enjoyed camping trips, having completed her Duke of Edinburgh award.

“We are devastated, and we really want our privacy and the privacy of family and friends to be respected during this time,” they added.

Michael was remembered as a keen young acting talent by his theatre school in Corby.

A tribute posted by Genesis Theatre Schools and Agency said the loss of young ‘Mikey’ had left them “heartbroken”, and that they are praying for his brother who is fighting for life.

The Facebook post read: “He was such a special, kind and considerate person. One of the most natural and spontaneous people at expression. A rare exceptional talent in acting and so, so funny.

“He was a member of the ‘Genesis Agency’ too as there was something so unique in him and he was passionate about a career in acting. Mikey was one of the most precious of gems in Genesis Theatre School.

“His presence and sweetness will be forever missed. What unfathomable loss. Our Genesis heart is heavy with the loss of such a talented pupil.

“Our own hearts are heavy with the loss of such a special person.”