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'We wanted to do something that celebrated his life, because Mick was the light of our lives'

The family of the Irishman who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash have spoken about their loss.

The 39-year-old was on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight when it crashed.
The 39-year-old was on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight when it crashed.
Image: WFP/Facebook

THE FAMILY OF the Irish aid worker who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash earlier this year have said that he was the “light of our lives”.

Father-of-two Mick Ryan was deputy chief engineer at the United Nations’ World Food Programme and died in the crash along with the 156 other airline passengers.

He lived in Cork but had recently relocated to the programme’s Rome headquarters.

Speaking today on RTÉ’s Today With Seán O’Rourke, his mother Christine and wife Naoise said he was a very active person who won hurling medals and loved watersports. 

Naoise said he had always loved travelling and had texted her when he was boarding the fatal flight six months ago. 

“I got a call from a friend in Rome and a few messages saying, have you seen the news, please call me, this sort of thing. So I phone my friend back thinking maybe something was wrong and in Rome or something was wrong with him. And that’s when he told me.

He said a plane has gone down that was heading from Addis to Nairobi. And my first reaction was, I was like, ‘no, no, this can’t be Mick’, you know, it’s not possible. But it was confirmed about an hour later. 

Naoise went on to say that at the beginning nothing was clear but that everything pointed to the fact that her husband was on the flight.

“When I was talking to my friend, we didn’t have any clear information. But we both felt because I had sent him a text message earlier morning and I could see it had sent but not delivered and I had received a message from him in the middle of the night saying he was boarding the flight. So yeah, it was it wasn’t clear, but definitely all the indications were that he was on it.”


Source: RTÉ Radio 1/SoundCloud

Naoise explained that one of the problems in dealing with Mick’s death afterwards was that they couldn’t hold a normal funeral or have a burial. 

“We discussed about what we would we do and in this situation it’s impossible to know. And then eventually a very good friend got in touch and suggested a paddle out with surfing. And we got the ball rolling and we just said we wanted to do something that celebrated his life, because Mick was the light of our lives and to us he was incredible.”

Mick’s mother Christine also spoke about visiting the crash site with her other son, something she said brought her some peace. 

“I felt I had to go, I wanted to go. I felt his spirit was still there and I felt that he’d have known that I’d be the one to go if we felt we needed to go. So I went out there and I spoke to him and said to him what I wanted to say to him, and I felt that he had a certain sense of peace and I had a certain sense of peace from being there, even though the area was very traumatic.”

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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