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'We'll do it as long as it takes': Massive community effort to feed Rescue 116 search teams

Groups from all over the country are sending food to the local co-op near Blacksod.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

WITH ONLY TWO of the four crew members from Rescue 116 recovered so far, the search for missing winch operator Paul Ormsby (53) and winchman Ciarán Smith (38) has entered its fourth week.

Poor weather conditions have consistently hampered their efforts, but search teams were able to lift the wreckage of the helicopter on Sunday.

As the search goes on, the local community in nearby Eachléim have been helping to coordinate efforts to feed and support the large rescue efforts, while groups around the country have also shown their support.

While many have sent their own food parcels to Eachléim, a direct payment can be made by those who wish to contribute to the local support for the search efforts.

Stacks of food supplies can be found at the local co-op and efforts are ongoing from groups all over the country to send more.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, community co-op chairman John Gallagher, said that they intend to keep doing that as long as is necessary.

“We’ve been going at it hammer and tongs,” he said. “There are meals being served here three times a day.”

Gallagher praised the response from the surrounding east Mayo area, with schools, GAA clubs and local businesses all pitching in to help.

Local farmers and fisherman have helped with the rescue efforts, and the searchers return to the co-op each day to recharge their batteries ahead of fresh attempts to find the missing crew members.

“Local shops Brogan’s Eurospar, Cuffe’s Centra and Healy’s Spar have all chipped in with food, and others from around the area,” Gallagher said.

The co-op chairman also cited examples of people from around the country helping their efforts.

Father Sean Nealon, from Ballinasloe, has come twice with two car boots full of food. Schools in Dublin and Meath have helped out too. We’ve received so much support.

Gallagher said that there will be no slowdown in their efforts until the remaining crew members are found.

We’re going to keep going at it as long as it takes for the families.

Yesterday, the sister of Ciarán Smith appealed for fisherman along the coast to assist in the search efforts for her brother and Paul Ormsby, who remain missing.

Orla Smith described the wait for their loved ones to be found as a “living nightmare for all of us”.

Smith and Ormsby were among the four crew members aboard the Rescue 116 Coast Guard helicopter that went down on its way to refuel at Blacksod lighthouse on 13 March as it was about to assist in a medical evacuation mission.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered at sea soon after the helicopter went down, but died later in hospital. The body of pilot Mark Duffy was found in the wreckage of the helicopter last week.

Read: ‘We need those boys home’: Sister of missing Rescue 116 crewman appeals for search help from fishermen

Read: Search teams will attempt to lift wreckage of Rescue 116 today

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