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Friday 24 November 2017

Search renewed for winchmen as club divers lend support

Vera Cusack and Bernie Naughton lay a wreath for the crew of Rescue 116 at the helipad in Blacksod Harbour in Co Mayo. Photos: PA
Vera Cusack and Bernie Naughton lay a wreath for the crew of Rescue 116 at the helipad in Blacksod Harbour in Co Mayo. Photos: PA

Brian O'Reilly and Ed Carty

Scores of divers took part in renewed efforts to find the bodies of two winchmen from an Irish Coast Guard helicopter which crashed in the Atlantic last month.

Rescue 116 went down off Co Mayo at 12.46am on March 14 with four crew on board after it struck Black Rock island 12 miles offshore.

Divers at Blacksod Harbour continue to search for the two missing Coast Guard crew, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith. Photos: PA
Divers at Blacksod Harbour continue to search for the two missing Coast Guard crew, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith. Photos: PA

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, commander of the flight, was later pulled from the sea, while the body of Captain Mark Duffy, co-pilot on the flight, was taken from the cockpit 12 days later by Navy divers working at depths of 40 metres.

The bodies of winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith have not been found.

Divers from clubs affiliated to the Irish Underwater Council joined the Garda sub-aqua unit and local fishing boats for focused inspection of the seabed around Black Rock.

A wreath-laying ceremony also took place on the pier next to the lighthouse in Blacksod where Rescue 116 had been due to refuel before tragedy struck.

Paul Ormsby Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Paul Ormsby Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Meanwhile, the sister of Capt Fitzpatrick has spoken about how she has been coping since the tragedy.

The Coast Guard helicopter crashed off the coast of Mayo almost six weeks ago.

Speaking to Neil Delamere on Today FM yesterday, Niamh Fitzpatrick spoke about life since the tragedy.

"You get the inconsolable moments, and then you have moments where you feel numb; as if this is all happening, but it's happening through a glass window and we're watching it," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

"The odd time, you feel normal, and then you feel weird feeling normal.

"You have a pain in your chest, your stomach drops, you're exhausted, you have these, what I can only describe as these heaving, racking sobs that take you to your knees," she added.

Ciarán Smith
Ciarán Smith

She revealed that the family have been overwhelmed by the support they have received.

"I didn't need my faith in humanity restored because I always had it, but my faith in humanity has been boosted by the way that people have shown their support," she said.

"It's been absolutely incredible, and it does help, because this is lonely.

Emotional

"The whole experience has been just huge emotionally and you know, grief is physical," she added.

"I'm 48 years of age, I've been through a lot of crap in my life. I've never cried like that," she said.

Ms Fitzpatrick, who works for Today FM, also spoke about the two helicopter crewmen whose bodies have not been discovered.

She said the failure to find the bodies of Mr Smith and Mr Ormsby "rips through the heart" of the family.

"I wouldn't care if nobody ever touched me again in my life, or hugged me again in my life, or was kind to me ever again in my life if Paul and Ciarán could just be found," she said.

"If Dara Fitz is in heaven, she needs to have a word with God, fairly fast."

Martina Smith, wife of Mr Smith, passed along a message of her own through the show.

"Please just get across a massive thank you to the amazing people who have surrounded us," she said.

"The goodness in this world far outweighs the bad.

"How blessed we are and none of us must ever forget it.

"The four crew we now grieve for, blessed our lives, and they have put special people at our sides. So it is as simple as 'thank you'."

Irish Independent

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