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'We will never forget': Tributes paid to Rescue 116 victims on second anniversary of crash

Four people lost their lives after Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 went down on 14 March 2017.

Emergency services searching for the missing members of Rescue 116 two years ago
Emergency services searching for the missing members of Rescue 116 two years ago
Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid to those who lost their lives in the Rescue 116 crash two years ago today. 

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, winchman Ciarán Smith and winch operator Paul Ormsby all lost their lives after Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 went down on 14 March 2017. 

Rescue 116 crashed after it struck Blackrock Island off the Mayo coast on its way to a refuelling stop at Blacksod. It was due to refuel before taking part in a rescue operation.

The bodies of Smith and Ormsby were never recovered.

“We will never forget, we will always remember. Spare a thought for all our emergency services as they go about their work, sometimes in the harshest of conditions,” Carrybridge RNLI tweeted, paying tribute to those who died in the incident. 

Dublin Fire Brigade said its “thoughts are with all who [have] been affected by the tragedy, especially the families, friends and colleagues of Dara, Mark, Paul and Ciaran”. 

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, based in the UK, also paid tribute to the victims. 

“Two years ago tonight we tragically lost four of our search and rescue family, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, Winchman Ciaran Smith and Winch Operator Paul Ormsby,” it tweeted. 

“Irish Coastguard Rescue 116 forever in our family and always in our hearts.”  

Limerick Fire Service said: “Today we remember the crew of Irish Coastguard helicopter Rescue 116 on the 2nd anniversary of their tragic loss.

“Their families, friends and colleagues in the Irish Coastguard are in the thoughts of all in Limerick Fire & Rescue. Go Mairidís Beo.”

‘It’s a shock the first year’ 

Yesterday, the sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick told RTÉ Radio One’s Ray D’Arcy Show how her family has been coping since her death. 

Niamh Fitzpatrick described how Dara’s son Fionn, a baby at the time of his mother’s death, has become a little boy Dara would be “so proud of”.  

Fitzpatrick said the family has found the days leading up to the anniversary of the crash very difficult. She described how the initial aftermath Dara’s death was like a blur and now they’re feeling her loss without the shock – something Niamh said she finds more painful. 

Coast Guard Tragedy. Captain Dara Fitzpatrick Source: Irish Coast Guard/RollingNews.ie

She added: “It’s a tough couple of days. It gets different over time – maybe putting my psychologist hat on. That first year, we were probably anesthetised. This year, we are dealing with the grief without anything to numb the pain, so there’s a reality about it.

“It’s shock the first year, with the trauma, as well as grief and it’s almost like you have to deal with that first before you deal with the grief.”

The search for the crew lasted 42 days. Fitzpatrick said she owes the people of Blacksod an eternal debt of gratitude for their warmth and support throughout the weeks.

“I don’t think we will ever be able to thank them but even to say the words, that I’m grateful for that.”

With reporting by Garreth MacNamee

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