‘Our charming, handsome and bashful daddy hero’
Captain Mark Duffy, of Irish Coast Guard Helicopter R116 lived and ultimately died by the sea but his idyllic seaside life was one well lived.
“He skimmed stones on the little beach from Cois na Mara with Esmé and Fionn. He and I took moonlight walks before bed on the beach and then we had tea or coffee on the beach or in the garden.
“Living here by the sea was absolute contentment for him, with us. All he wanted was to get Esmé and Fionn safely to adulthood and have a little time for us again,” read the speech of his wife, Hermione, at his funeral in the seaside town of Blackrock, Co Louth yesterday.
Her words were read out by family friend Declan Whelan, who told the hundreds of mourners that Hermione and their children Esmé, 14, and Fionn, 12, were Mark’s “whole life” and the “centre of his world”.
“Mark and I have been together 26 years. I remember seeing him out for the first time and hearing that he wanted to ask me out. He was Mr Cool and I was so chuffed.
“We have two beautiful children and our home beside the sea was our wee world where Mark, on coming home from a 24-hour shift would come in and say: ‘Oh Hermione, I love getting home to you and the kids but I love flying that helicopter’,” read his wife’s speech.
“He’d then shut the door behind him and engross himself in our home life. Mark and I did everything ourselves as a team.
“He was a Garda Cósta na hÉireann, but he was also our guardian. Mark always allayed my worries, he put a safety net around us in our home, he was fearless. He lived consciously each day and week for the moment.
“He dug the holes in the garden and I planted the plants. I ordered the greenhouse and he built it. I planned the day out and he drove us there.”
“He instilled that can-do approach in Esmé and Fionn, which is very important for Mark in our children,” the letter read.
The conversation “should anything happen” to Mark at sea had taken place in the Duffy family home. Mark told Hermione not to be afraid. He knew she could rear their children alone.
The final words of her speech were: “We, Hermione, Esmé and Fionn adore and love you Mark, our charming, handsome and bashful daddy hero. Guess how much I love you? I love you to the moon and back.”
A rugby ball, the couple’s wedding rings, Mark’s flying helmet and a pair of slippers were presented to the altar during his funeral mass, which was celebrated by his uncle Fr Stephen Duffy.
The slippers were a nod to Mark’s threshold transition, from CoastGuard helicopter pilot to father and husband, where he would take off his boots and pull on his slippers upon arriving home to his family after a 24-hour shift.
“What has happened is more than a family grief it is a community catastrophe,” said Fr Duffy in his homily.
A guard of honour was formed by dozens of members of the emergency services at his funeral, with representatives from the Irish Coast Guard and the Defence Forces.
Classmates of Esmé and Fionn’s also joined in.
President Michael D Higgins was in attendance and he greeted Fionn with a warm hug at the end of the mass. The Taoiseach was represented by his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel Kieran Carey.
Members of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick’s family were also in attendance.
At the end of the mass WB Yeats’s poem ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death,’ was read out at Hermione’s request, ending with the words, “In balance with this life, this death.”
A tribute video has been dedicated to the crew of Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116, who died more than two weeks ago off the Co Mayo coast.
The video posted on Youtube has resulted in an outpouring of emotional posts as father of two Captain Mark Duffy was laid to rest in Co Louth.
So far the video has been watched 25,000 times since Wednesday.
Salvage experts to assist in Rescue 116 effort
A powerful ocean-going tug has been deployed to Blacksod in Co Mayo to assist in the recovery of the two missing crewmen of Rescue 116, writes.
Salvage experts Atlantic Towage and Marine were called in yesterday to help in the multi-agency operation, and dispatched their powerful Ocean Challenger tug from their base in West Cork to Blacksod last night.
The 540-tonne 35m heavy-lifting vessel is due to arrive this evening but is not expected to begin operations until tomorrow, if the weather permits.
“My absolute priority is to do everything practicable to locate and recover the remaining casualties,” Coast Guard operations manager Gerard O’Flynn said.
The Dublin-based Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 crashed into the sea near Blackrock Island, off the north Mayo coast, on March 14 with four crew on board.
Pilot Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were killed. Mr Duffy’s remains were recovered from the wreck, which was found lying on rocks in about 40 metres of water some 60 metres away from Blackrock Island.
The search for missing crew members Paul Ormsby, 53, and Ciaran Smith, 38, continues.
But poor weather and and strong ocean currents have hampered the intensive search and recovery operation.
Efforts to use airbags to reposition the wreckage in an effort to allow naval service and garda divers conduct a more detailed visual inspection have also been hampered by extremely strong and treacherous underwater currents.
Mr O’Flynn said given the various circumstances and challenges, and the narrow weather windows for operations, a decision was taken to call in the Ocean Challenger tug to assist in the multi-agency operation.
It is hoped the tug will be able to manoeuvre directly over the wreck site where naval and garda divers will attach straps to the remains of the aircraft.
The tug’s heavy-lifting crane will then be used to apply pressure to rotate the wreckage enough, or even lift it slightly, to facilitate a more detailed visual inspection for the missing crew.
“The Coast Guard continues to assist An Garda Síochána with the search for the casualties, and in the collection of evidence associated with this incident, and to assist the Air Accident Investigation Unit in the recovery of wreckage by coordinating four elements of the search - in the air, the surface, the sub-surface and shoreline - in conjunction with other agencies,” Mr O’Flynn said.
A decision on whether to lift the wreckage to the surface will be made at a future date, he added.