Michael 'saved hundreds' of lives: Tributes to 'amazing' Irish aid worker

Michael 'saved hundreds' of lives: Tributes to 'amazing' Irish aid worker

By Olivia Kelleher

Update 12.20pm A United Nations aid worker, who died in an Ethiopian airlines crash on Sunday, saved hundreds of lives arising out of his extraordinary intellect and his relentless work ethic, a friend who knew him through the Save Cork City Campaign in Cork has stated.

Michael Ryan lived with his family in Pope's Quay in the centre of Cork and passionately supported plans to find ways to repair the quays with reference to the maritime history of the city whilst opposing the Office of Public Works Walls scheme.

Spokesman for Save Cork City, John Hegarty, said that Michael was a dear friend to all those who knew him whilst making a huge impact on the world in his short life.

"Mick was doing good around the world. He saved hundreds, possibly thousands of lives. If there was a landslide that separated a population and people were in trouble or whatever he found a way of connecting them.

"He believed that his efforts in engineering could save lives and he did that. He was amazing.

"That is what drove him in his life. To do good. He really thought about people being the benefactors of everything that was done.

That's what makes it very tragic. He was often at risk with his work in the UN and he wouldn't have expected to be at risk on an ordinary domestic flight.

John told the Opinion Line on Cork's 96FM that Michael worked tirelessly for populations in difficulty abroad.

"He used his engineering skills and got roads built or set up connections between cities that were in trouble either in flooding or in war torn circumstances created homes for people. He worked for the UN in that he created a lot of engineering solutions to their problems."

Michael and his wife Naoise and their two children were set to relocate to Rome next week as part of his work with the UN.

John said that Michael had very good diplomatic skills and a natural affinity with people.

"I didn't know anybody that didn't like him. And I know that is something that people say in these circumstances but it is so true about Mick.

He used his skills to help people. He was amazing. He didn't see obstacles to getting stuff done. In his work abroad he has been shot at. He has been in perilous situations.

"He was a really great person as a representation of Ireland abroad. It is a real tragedy. He is a great loss."

Mr Ryan is survived by his wife Naoise and their two children. He was due to turn forty on March 28.

He was travelling to Nairobi for a conference when his life was cut prematurely short.

Clare County Council has opened Book of Condolences for Micheal at Áras Contae an Chláir in Ennis and at the West Clare Municipal District Office in Ennistymon.

Cllr Michael Begley, Mayor of Clare, said: “On behalf of Clare County Council and the people of Clare, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to Michael’s family and his wide circle of friends and former colleagues.”

"Michael was a valued member of the UN community for his work in humanitarian assistance for the World Food Programme. His work brought him all over the world and has benefited countless numbers of people down through the years.

"His loss to the local community in North Clare and to the United Nations is immeasurable. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam."


Additional reporting by Digital Desk.

'He'd light up a room': Michael Ryan's mother pays tribute to son

Update 11.10am: Tributes continue to pour in for Irish aid worker Michael Ryan who was among those killed in yesterday's Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The airline has confirmed this morning that the black boxes from the plane have been recovered.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Michael D Higgins led the tributes to Michael Ryan, a father of two from Lahinch, Co Clare.

Postmaster in Lahinch, Shane Tulty, knew Michael and says the community is devastated.

"Terrible devastation in the area...the community is in deep shock," said Mr Tulty.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has expressed his sympathy to Mr Ryan's family and friends.

Deputy Martin said: "From all of the wonderful reports yesterday evening and this morning, we know that he was a man who was dedicated to making a difference in all aspects of his life.

Michael embodied what it is to be a humanitarian; he was compassionate, selfless, determined and talented.

"As we heard from Michael’s mother, he was a continually enthusiastic person who lit up a room when he entered it."

Paying tribute to her son this morning, Christine Ryan said that the family couldn't believe that it had happened.

Michael 'saved hundreds' of lives: Tributes to 'amazing' Irish aid worker

“He was always a visionary, he always wanted to help others and that was his vision in life and he loved people. He'd light up a room when he came into it and people loved him and he had a way with people."

She went on to describe her son as “a very enthusiastic person, he had a great vision, he had ferocious work, he believed in engineering, putting people first and he was involved in a lot of different projects worldwide - flood relief and landslides, Ebola and had been in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan and a lot of African countries.

Michael Ryan wanted 'to save the world': Mother pays tribute to 'visionary' son

Update 9.25am: The family of Michael Ryan had been planning to go to Rome next week to celebrate his 40th birthday.

His mother Christine Ryan described her son as an amazing person who wanted to save the world.

“He was always a visionary, he always wanted to help others and that was his vision in life and he loved people. He'd light up a room when he came into it and people loved him and he had a way with people.

Michael 'saved hundreds' of lives: Tributes to 'amazing' Irish aid worker

“He always wanted to help people, that was his thing in life. He wouldn't be interested in a 9 to 5 job, he was one of those that put everything into his work,” she told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

Mrs Ryan had known Michael was going to be on a flight to Nairobi, but she did not know he had been on the Ethiopian Airlines flight that had crashed shortly after take off until Michael’s wife Naoise contacted her.

“I had heard that the flight had gone down, but I didn't realise he was on it until Naoise contacted me.

I was hoping that he wasn't on that flight, that he might have been on a different one.

“We still can't believe it, we can't come to terms with this. His wife Naoise and his children, everybody is just devastated. Nobody can believe that this has happened.”

She went on to describe her son as “a very enthusiastic person, he had a great vision, he had ferocious work, he believed in engineering, putting people first and he was involved in a lot of different projects worldwide - flood relief and landslides, Ebola and had been in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan and a lot of African countries.

“He just felt he made a difference. He did so much for Rohingyas, all the other projects that he was involved in. He had a marvellous vision, he just got there and did it, and had great enthusiasm.

“Myself and his wife Naoise would always be concerned when he was going. She was always concerned when he got on different flights, but when he got on this particular flight she wasn't that concerned about him because she felt he had been in worse situations and had survived and had gotten through the system.

“It just took him this time. It's just unreal, we're finding it very difficult to come to grips with it.

“He did an awful lot with Ebola, landslides, flood relief, and he was always looking forward to doing his best with people and achieving goals with people, he wanted really basically to save the world as far as he was concerned and he had a vision for that.

“He just seemed to put all his energies and do that, and his wife and family really appreciated what he was doing.

"Great that he could do it, he was great with them when he came back, it was all hands on deck with them, he brought his children off surfing or golfing in Lahinch. He just loved west Clare, Lahinch, the area, he loved life and living.

He had such enthusiasm for anything he set his mind to, whether it was work or family, he was a continually enthusiastic person.

Mrs Ryan explained how Michael had been based in Rome. “He worked from there, he liked to go out on the field, he knew his life was at risk, he was in contact helping regarding Ebola, he knew there was a lot of risk involved in the job he was doing.

“Even as I was talking to him the day before the crash I was talking to him about his daughter Saorla, he said that he would love her when she grows up, she's only three and a half now, that she would go and do something like he did and go and volunteer and help less well off people, to travel the world and do something like him.

“He loved his job and he loved his work, he approached everything in life with enthusiasm, not just work, his family and everything else.

A passenger’s passport lies on the ground at the scene of the crash (Mulugeta Ayene/AP)
A passenger’s passport lies on the ground at the scene of the crash (Mulugeta Ayene/AP)

“He had some amazing stories, there was danger there as well, there was a lot of danger for him, but he loved his work and he loved his job, we all appreciated that he was doing all this work, he was supported by his wife and family at all times.

“You couldn't take that away from him, that was his life, he did an awful lot with the Rohingya, he sent us photos of his work in various places, the work he had done, he was so enthusiastic about it.

“Next week we were meant to go to Rome to him for his 40th birthday on March 28th, his son was going to be christened in Rome, we were all heading off, we had our flights booked to go next week.

"He would have been back from Naiorbi, we were all going out to celebrate his 40th birthday.”

Michael 'saved hundreds' of lives: Tributes to 'amazing' Irish aid worker

Aviation expert claims Ethiopian Airline crash could have been averted

Update 9.10am: An Irish aviation expert claims that the problem which caused the Ethiopian Airline crash on Sunday could have been averted had the pilots flicked two switches, writes Vivienne Clarke.

Former pilot Fintan Ryan told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that a return to the landing field would have been very straight forward if the pilot had proper control of the aircraft.

“Obviously he hadn't because there's no evidence whatsoever that a turn was made back, in other words the aircraft continued on its original track, so it was heading out there and it's extraordinarily the same as the Lion Air crash in that it happened just as the flaps would be taken up and that's when this system that is suspect kicks in, for want of a better word.

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8
Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8

“The Lion Air crash in Indonesia, the problem was disagreement of air speed indicators and this fed into a soft ware system - an anti stall system - that thought the aircraft was going to stall, so it was forcing the aircraft to go down hill to gain speed and the pilots tried to overcome it, but they didn't over come it.

“But they actually could have. There were two switches there that could just switch it off and the problem would have been solved and that in actual fact happened on the previous flight.

“The problem was a one off, it wasn't generic with the aircraft, it was a problem with an air speed indicator and it should have been sorted, it happened on the previous flight, but the previous crew actually coped with it, they operated the two switches, switched off the stabliser that causes the problem and that was the end of it. They brought it back and it was supposed to be sorted after landing.

“It looks like a variation of that, if not exactly that because when the aircraft takes off as soon as you put in the flaps, which is about 1500 feet, that's about a minute after take off then this protecting system kicks in and it obviously kicked in because they were having trouble controlling the aircraft.

“If it was that they could have switched the two switches, I've flown the Boeing 737, when I started back in 1970 the same two switches were there.”

Michael 'saved hundreds' of lives: Tributes to 'amazing' Irish aid worker

Mr Ryan said that Norwegian Airlines operates the same aircraft on their north Atlantic routes from Ireland to the east coast of the US. He also pointed out that Ryanair has ordered 135 of aircraft.

However, he said he would not have any problem getting on a Norwegian aircraft to Boston.

“This is a huge problem for Boeing. I think it's more of a perception rather than a real problem because I think it's something that will be sorted very quickly.”

China temporarily ground Boeing 737 Max aircrafts; Tributes continue for Irish victim

Earlier: Beijing has told Chinese companies to temporarily ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes - the same model involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

In October, a Lion Air plane of the same model came down in Indonesia.

Aviation Consultant Gideon Ewers says we should not jump to conclusions.

Ethiopian Airlines plane. File photo
Ethiopian Airlines plane. File photo

Mr Ewers said that to draw the conclusion that the problem is to do with the 737 Max would be pre-emptive and said that people should wait until the investigation has finished before speculating as to the cause.

Meanwhile, tributes continue to pour in for Michael Ryan, a father of two from Co Clare, who was among the 157 victims of the crash.

The Chief Executive of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, says investigations are under way.

"Today is a very sad and tragic day for all of us at Ethiopian Airlines," Mr Gebremariam said following the crash.

"At this stage, we cannot attribute the cause to anything because we will have to comply with the international regulation to wait for the investigation to reveal the cause of the accident."

Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey says the death of Michael Ryan is devastating for his family and the community.

"The community in Lahinch and Co Clare are in mourning as a result

Digital Desk

Irish victim of air crash was doing ‘life-changing work’ in aid mission

The Irishman killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash was using his engineering expertise to do ‘life-changing work’ to bring vital aid and shelter to desperate people in the world’s trouble zones, writes Caroline O’Doherty and Elaine Loughlin.

Michael “Mick” Ryan, a native of Lahinch, Co Clare, but who had also made his home in Cork, worked for the World Food Programme, where he was a deputy chief engineer.

The father of two, who was in his 40s, led a project to build secure accommodation and sanitation infrastructure for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh last year.

Michael ‘Mick’ Ryan, who worked for the World Food Programme,was originally from Lahinch, Co Clare, but was believed to be living with his wife and children in Cork. He was among those killed after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed yesterday morning, shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew on board flight ET302 to Nairobi in  Kenya
Michael ‘Mick’ Ryan, who worked for the World Food Programme,was originally from Lahinch, Co Clare, but was believed to be living with his wife and children in Cork. He was among those killed after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed yesterday morning, shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew on board flight ET302 to Nairobi in Kenya

He was at the forefront of the emergency response following the 2015 Nepal earthquake where he led teams assessing road damage and helping secure routes for food aid.

Mr Ryan was one of a group of aid specialists flying to Kenya to attend the UN Environment Assembly, which is gathering in Nairobi over five days this week.

They were among 157 people who died when the Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after take-off from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa yesterday morning. The deceased were from 33 different countries and there were no survivors.

The plane contained passengers from more than 30 nationalities. According to the airline, Kenya had 32, Canada 18, Ethiopia nine, Italy, China, and the US eight each, the UK and France seven each, Egypt six, the Netherlands five, India and Slovakia four each, Sweden and Russia three each, and other countries one or two.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the tragedy and was offering consular assistance. Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys expressed her condolences.

“I am very sorry to hear about the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed this morning,” she said. “Just to say that our thoughts are with the families and the Department of Foreign Affairs remains ready to act in any way that they can and give any support that they can to the families.”

Ethiopian Airlines said it would provide all necessary support to the families of the victims and pledged a full and open investigation.

The plane, a Boeing 737, was only recently built, had undergone a full maintenance check five weeks ago, and had flown to Addis from Johannesburg without incident some hours before the crash.

However, it was the same type of aircraft that crashed in Indonesia last October, killing all 189 people on board.

That Lion Air flight also went down shortly after take-off.

It is understood the Ethiopian Airlines pilot reported a problem and had requested permission to return to Addis when the plane went down.

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, confirmed that Mr Ryan was one of seven WFP staff on board who lost their lives in the crash.

He said each had been “willing to travel and work far from their homes and loved ones to help make the world a better place in which to live”.

“The WFP family mourns today. We will do all that is humanly possible to help the families at this painful time,” he said.

It is believed Mr Ryan, his wife Naoise, and their children had been due to relocate to Rome in the coming weeks.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan tweeted: “Thoughts & prayers with families of Ethiopian air crash victims but thinking especially of Ryan family from Clare. Michael was committed to the highest ideals of fighting world poverty & providing food for all. Condolences to his family & friends at all at Rome HQ.”

Last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Our thoughts tonight are with families of all those lost in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, including Irish engineer Michael Ryan. Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Programme. Deepest sympathies to family, colleagues and friends.”

The pilot had sent out a distress call and was given the all clear to return, according to the airline’s chief executive, Tewolde Gebremariam.

Senior captain Yared Getachew had a “commendable performance”, the airline said.

The plane had undergone a “rigorous” testing on February 4, a statement continued.

Records show the plane was new and delivered to the airline as recently as November.

More on this topic

23 injured in emergency landing after Russian airliner hits flock of birds23 injured in emergency landing after Russian airliner hits flock of birds

Sala and pilot suffered carbon monoxide poisoning before plane crash, report saysSala and pilot suffered carbon monoxide poisoning before plane crash, report says

Kildare plane crash investigation shows aircraft rapidly lost height and hit the ground 30 seconds laterKildare plane crash investigation shows aircraft rapidly lost height and hit the ground 30 seconds later

Dallas plane crew spoke of engine trouble just before fatal crash – officialsDallas plane crew spoke of engine trouble just before fatal crash – officials


More in this Section

Suspect held after major manhunt faces 10 chargesSuspect held after major manhunt faces 10 charges

Family of 67-year-old missing from Dublin very concerned for her wellbeing Family of 67-year-old missing from Dublin very concerned for her wellbeing

Homecoming date for victorious Dublin footballers announced Homecoming date for victorious Dublin footballers announced

Gardaí in Cork renew appeal for witnesses to serious assault on Patrick StGardaí in Cork renew appeal for witnesses to serious assault on Patrick St


Lifestyle

The Regal Cinema in Youghal, Co Cork, first opened its doors in 1936. Director John Huston used it as a base to review footage while filming Moby Dick in the town.We Show Films: ‘I once found a full rotisserie chicken in the cinema’

The biennial festival in Cork produced another unique feast of fine music and good vibes.Sounds from a Safe Harbour brings fine music and good vibes to Cork

Here are five things to check out in the week ahead.5 things for the week ahead

You have crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a ship to Ireland. You are tired and hungry and desperate to deliver your expensive cargo to port.Islands of Ireland: Horse, trading, and Drishane

More From The Irish Examiner