'An inspiration to many' - Prince William's emotional tribute to heroic Rescue 116 crew
Prince William has paid tribute to the heroic crew of Rescue 116, saying they will be "an inspiration to many."
The Prince has written a heartfelt letter for a memorial concert that will honour Irish Coast Guard crew Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch men Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby, who died when their aircraft crashed off the Co Mayo coast in March.
He said: "The selfless actions of those who put their lives on the line, for the safety of others, will always draw admiration from an incredibly wide audience.
“Consequently Ciarán, Dara, Mark and Paul will be mourned far beyond these shores and the lives they led will be an inspiration to many.”
Prince William has served as a pilot with the Royal Air Force and the East Anglian Air Ambulance service and said that he knows of the dangers involved.
The 35-year-old said: “I am proud to have served as a search and rescue pilot myself and I know how many of the stories, even though they could be perceived as routine, always have an element of hidden danger.
“It is the acceptance of this risk, and the desire to carry out their duties in spite of it, which makes the search and rescue crews such a remarkable group of people.”
The concert has been organised as part of the Cootehill Arts Festival, which Ms Fitzpatrick's uncle John Blakey is the director of.
He said that Prince William was only too happy to be involved in the event.
Mr Blakey told Independent.ie: “William was a rescue helicopter captain and he knew the crew, we have a story in the concert's booklet about how Prince William met Paul Ormsby.
"After the crash Prince William wrote a lovely letter to the Fitzpatrick family.
"Dara's father is from Cootehill and she still has a lot of family here, so there was a great sense of loss here after the accident and we decided it would be appropriate to have the memorial here.
"We contacted Prince William to ask if we could print his letter in the festival's booklet and he replied saying he would write one especially for it."
With Prince William's permission, the letter has also been translated to Irish for the piece and joins another written by President Michael D Higgins.
Mr Blakey said that the concert will begin with a performance by the Roscommon Solstice Choir at the festival's theatre tent at 7.45pm, during which a Coast Guard rescue helicopter will do a salute.
After that a performance by an Uilleann Piper from the Clew Bay Pipe Band at the scene of the crash on Blacksod Island will be broadcast into the tent.
There will also be performances by musicians including Declan O'Rourke, The Molloy Brothers and The Clew Bay Pipe Band, while RTE's Ray D'Arcy will act as the master of ceremonies.
Mr Blakey said: "This is a fundraiser for the RNLI and it's completely sold out, the tickets were like gold dust.
"We wanted it to be an intimate event and the families of all the crew will attend."