Sunday 27 May 2018

'Extraordinary people who put their lives on the line so we may be safe' - memorial for heroic Rescue 116 crew

The crew of Rescue 116: (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith
The crew of Rescue 116: (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith

Robin Schiller

Over three hundred people have turned out for the memorial mass and wreath laying service of the Rescue 116 crew in Mayo this morning on the anniversary of their deaths.

Family, friends, loved ones and colleagues of the tragic Coast Guard members paid their respects in two poignant ceremonies on the Mullet peninsula, 13km from where their helicopter crashed off the Irish Coast on March 14, 2017.

Pilot Dara Fitzpatrick, co-pilot Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciaran Smith were on board when the aircraft collided with Black Rock island.

An emotional memorial mass was held in St Brendan’s Church, Tirrane at 10am this morning to mark the one year anniversary of the tragedy.

The chief celebrants were Fr John Loftus, Fr Kevin Hegarty and Fr Stephen Duffy, who is the uncle of Rescue 116 crew member Mark Duffy.

Fr Hegarty said in his homily that the lives of the four rescue workers had been taken away “like a thief in the night” and that their deaths marked another sad and desperate chapter in the locality.

“Today we gather one year later to remember first of all the four who lost their lives. They gave their lives to serve and to save, and they died in the course of their duties,” Fr Hegarty said.

The parish priest added that the sense of tragedy revealed the strength of the community in Ireland.

After the mass a wreath laying service took place at Blacksod lighthouse, where the unprecedented search and rescue operation for the four crew men was coordinated from last year.

Five wreaths- one each representing a crew member and a fifth for Doolin Coast Guard volunteer Catriona Lucas- were placed on the lighthouse helipad by family members.

They were then brought by representatives from the various agencies involved in the search operation to Blacksod harbour.

Members of the Gardai, the RNLI, the Coast Guard, the Naval Service and the Commission of Irish Lights brought the wreaths down to Blacksod Harbour alongside the Rescue 116 crew’s families and friends.

A guard of honour was also formed along the pier by members of the local community and various agencies, as bag piper Kian Moore led the procession, playing Dawning of the Day.

The wreaths were then brought to the Defence Force vessel LE Niamh, where they will then be brought by Naval Service personnel, Supt Tony Healy and Coast Guard Operations Manager Gerard O’Flynn  to Black Rock island.

Transport Minister Shane Ross also commented on the anniversary today, saying that March 14 should be the “byword for heroes” and called for people to reflect on the sacrifice the Rescue 116 crew made.

“Today, I would also suggest that we pause and think of all those who work in our emergency services, often at great risk to themselves.

“These are the extraordinary people who put their lives on the line every day so that we may be safe in the water, on the roads and in the air.

“Let March 14th be the byword for heroes, when we join together and salute  those who sacrifice all for the greater good,” the Minister said.

Earlier this morning over 100 relatives and colleagues of the crew attended a candle lit vigil.

The event began shortly before 12.46am- the last radar contact the Irish Coast Guard helicopter had with control at Blacksod lighthouse a year ago before the fatal collision.

Four lights lit up from Glosh Tower across Blacksod Bay, one each representing Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby. 

A four minutes silence was then held for the crew with all lights turned off, apart from the four beacons which could be seen across the Mullet Peninsula.

Following the poignant four minutes of silence a bagpipe lament was played by John Butler in memory of the crew.

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