A flare for every R116 crew member

Four flares were let off into the Waterford sky as a wreath was laid at sea in a tribute to the crew members of Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116.

Pictured is Dara Fitzpatrick's sister, Niamh, placing the flowers in the water. Pictures: Patrick Browne

Lifeboats from Dunmore East, Tramore, Fethard, and Kilmore Quay, along with the Dunmore East Coast Guard, came together to pay tribute to the late Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Captain Mark Duffy, and to missing winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciarán Smith.

The ceremony, which took place to the sound of bagpipes, was held yesterday in Dunmore East at 1.30pm.

A minute’s silence was also observed at the scene to remember the lives of Cpt Fitzpatrick and Cpt Duffy and to pray for Mr Smith and Mr Ormsby.

Cpt Fitzpatrick’s sister, Niamh, was among the people who attended the ceremony.

Earlier, Niamh had explained how her sister was the chief pilot in Waterford for a number of years, and how she loved her time spent there and the people she had met.

Niamh also expressed her “heartfelt” thanks on social media to the various lifeboats and Dunmore East Coast Guard who organised the ceremony.

The ceremony took place one month on since the tragic crash of Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 off the Mayo coast.

It came after a preliminary report into the accident was published last week by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), which carried a short extract from the craft’s voice recorder prior to impact with Black Rock island as well a making two interim safety recommendations.

An issue identified in the investigation is that the island of Black Rock and its lighthouse were not on the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) used by the R116.

It recommended a review and re-evaluation of “all route guides in use by its search and rescue helicopters in Ireland, with a view to enhancing the information provided on obstacle heights and positions, terrain clearance, vertical profile, the positions of waypoints in relation to obstacles and EGPWS database terrain and obstacle limitations”.

CHC Ireland, which provides search and rescue services for the Irish Coast Guard under a Government contract, said that such a review was already underway.

“CHC Ireland is grateful to the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) for their initial report. We note the safety recommendations made,” read a statement by CHC Ireland.

“A review of all route guides in use is well underway as part of our own internal action.

“We will continue to fully support the ongoing AAIU investigation.”

Cpt Fitzpatrick’s sister also issued a statement describing how the family was “devastated” by the loss.

“As a family, we are devastated and distressed for all the families involved. We won’t be commenting on the AAIU report,” she said.

Meanwhile, searches for Mr Ormsby and Mr Smith continue with Irish Coast Guard, and Civil Defence volunteers combing the Mayo coastline.

Furthermore, the crews of fishing vessels operating in counties Mayo and Donegal have been asked to remain vigilant.

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