The Irish Coast Guard, which lost five members over the last two years, is to be honoured at the People of the Year Awards tomorrow night for putting their lives on the line for others.
The award recognises the crew of Rescue 116, who lost their lives off the Mayo coast in March 2017, and volunteer member, Caitríona Lucas, who died during an earlier operation in Clare.
The community of Erris will also be recognised for their outstanding contribution to the search for the missing Rescue 116 crew.
On March 14, 2017, Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 disappeared off the north coast of Mayo.
The aircraft had been providing communications support for an offshore medical assistance operation.
On board were Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team members Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.
Hundreds of volunteers, fishermen and colleagues supported the emergency services in the search for the missing crew.
The bodies of Capt Fitzpatrick and Capt Duffy were recovered but, sadly, and despite intensive efforts, the bodies of Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby are still missing.
Six months previously, the Irish Coast Guard community lost another brave colleague, Caitríona Lucas, who had been taking part in a search off the coast of Kilkee, Co Clare.
Irish Coast Guard search and rescue operations manager, Gerard O’Flynn, said they had lost five colleagues in a relatively short period of time.
“The selfless actions of those who put their lives on the line for the safety of others means Caitríona, Dara, Ciarán, Mark and Paul will remain an inspiration to us all,” he said.
“Our colleagues will always be sadly missed and we remain deeply saddened by the depth of this tragedy.”
Mr O’Flynn said they were very mindful of the families of the deceased and the loss that they had suffered.
“There is great resilience in the organisation but, equally, the loss suffered by the families of our deceased colleagues is always uppermost in our minds.
“Not a day goes by when what happened doesn’t cross your mind in some way or another.”
Mr O’Flynn also paid tribute to the community of Erris who left no stone unturned in supporting one of the most extensive search and investigation operations ever conducted in the area.
Gráinne Seoige, who will co-present the event live on RTÉ One from Dublin’s Mansion House with Aidan Power, said her mother was from the Aran Islands and that she grew up in the west of Ireland.
“I grew up knowing about the Coast Guard and the valuable work they do. I think it is fantastic that we are getting an opportunity to honour them.”
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