Friday 19 January 2018

Widow of heroic Rescue 116 Captain Mark Duffy sends heartfelt thanks to the public

Hermione Duffy, wife of Coast Guard Captain Mark Duffy, walks behind the coffin of her husband at his funeral Photo: Mark Condren
Hermione Duffy, wife of Coast Guard Captain Mark Duffy, walks behind the coffin of her husband at his funeral Photo: Mark Condren

Kathy Armstrong

Heroic Rescue 116 Captain Mark Duffy's grieving widow has thanked the public for their "immeasurable support and kindness."

Hermione Duffy said that the compassion shown by others is helping her family "in adjusting to our life now without Mark."

Captain Duffy (51) tragically died alongside his colleagues Captain Dara Fitzpatrick (45), winch operator Ciarán Smith (38) and winchman Paul Ormsby (53) when the Coast Guard helicopter crashed 12km off the Co Mayo coast on March 14.

The bodies of Captain Duffy and Captain Fitzpatrick have since been recovered but the remains of Mr Smith and Mr Orsmby still haven't been found.

In an e-mail to The Dundalk Democrat, Ms Duffy said: "On behalf of Mark's mother Sheila, and brothers Gavan and Donard, along with Mark’s uncle Fr. Stephen Duffy they extend their gratitude to you all.

"We are grateful for the kindness, gentleness and compassion shown to us by Fr. Padraig Keenan, P.P, and Father Brian White, C.C, Blackrock.

"We chose to live in Blackrock to be beside the sea, close to Mark’s work, near great schools and we live in this community which has given us immeasurable support and kindness which is greatly helping us in adjusting to our life now without Mark.

"The respect we have been shown gives us great pride to know the esteem Mark was held in by you all.

"To everyone, friends and others who offered their sympathies, personally and with cards, thank you for your support, gifts, flowers and help.

"To all the emergency services staff of the Irish Coastguard and the volunteers of the RNLI, your unique selflessness has been highlighted nationally by this tragedy may you always be acknowledged for your wonderful work. "

The Co Louth based mum also spoke of the tireless efforts of the crews who helped bring her husband home and are still trying to find Mr Smith and Mr Orsmby.

She said: "To the co-ordinators, crews and divers of the search and the volunteers who supported them in Blacksod, Belmullet and beyond, who still search for Ciaran and Paul, thank you seems inadequate for all that you did and continue to do."

She continued to say: "I would like to thank the people and communities of Blackrock, Dundalk, Cooley, Louth, Newry and Warrenpoint, South Armagh and Down, nationally especially Mayo and beyond, sincerely, for your kind, generous and compassionate actions since Mark’s tragic loss with the crew of Rescue 116.

President Michael D Higgins hugs Ms Duffy Photo: Mark Condren
President Michael D Higgins hugs Ms Duffy Photo: Mark Condren

"To the families of Esmé and Fionn’s many friends thank you for helping your children be their friends during this time. Thank you especially to the vice-principal and staff of St. Vincent’s Secondary School, Dundalk and the teaching staff of St. Francis National School, Blackrock.

"The Gardaí of Blackrock and Dundalk. The Clogherhead Coastguard unit who kept watch over us while the search to bring Mark home continued.

"Blackrock Tidy Towns and all the business owners in the village and Dundalk thank you . From the vigil in those first days to closing your shops during Mark’s funeral. Thank you to the local businesses who supplied food to us and the Irish Coastguard crew daily.

Read More: 'In honour of your sister' - Couple pay touching tribute to Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

A preliminary report into fatal crash of Coast Guard Rescue helicopter 116 released last month found a vital omission in the aircraft's onboard warning system.

A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continues for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo Photo: Steve Humphreys
A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continues for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo Photo: Steve Humphreys

In the report, the Air Accident Investigation Unit says that its initial inquiries have found that an Enhanced Ground Positioning Warning System did not have the 'lighthouse obstacle' included in an obstacle database and that 'the terrain of the island' was not listed on a terrain database.

Examining what happened in the moments before the collision, the report found that 'the helicopter pitched up rapidly, impacted with terrain at the western end of Black Rock and departed from controlled flight.'

The report also contained information from the voice recorder from R116.

In the seconds before the helicopter impacted with Blackrock Island, crew members were heard discussing 'an island directly in front of us' before advice to 'come right' is issued. But three seconds later, the last recorded communication took place.

The AAIU says the inquiry is ongoing and a final report into the accident will be published in due course.

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