Ordinary day extraordinary heroes lost their lives detailed in new report

Ordinary day extraordinary heroes lost their lives detailed in new report

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick had dropped her son to creche before heading to work on the day Rescue 116 crashed.

On the day Rescue 116 set out, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick had dropped her son to creche before heading to work for around 1pm.

She got home after 9pm, and was settling into bed, before going back downstairs at around 10.15pm to tell her sister she’d received a call. She returned to the base in Dublin where she and the crew would respond to the call-out.

The 350-page final report published by the Air Accident Investigation Investigation Unit (AAIU) into the Rescue 116 crash is detailed and mostly technical, but there are a few short pages that detail the very human side to the four crew members who tragically died .

Paul Ormsby was reading when he got the call to attend that fateful rescue mission.
Paul Ormsby was reading when he got the call to attend that fateful rescue mission.

They were beloved by their families and friends, and had worked tirelessly in a highly specialised and dangerous job. All answered the call when it came late on the Monday evening in March 2017.

The landmark report published yesterday details the timeline of the crash, and identifies “serious and important weaknesses” in aspects of the flight operator’s safety management system, as well as other aspects that contributed to the tragedy.

Some families of the bereaved issued statements, urging people to remember their loved ones who died and thanked the AAIU investigators for their report.

As Hermione Duffy, wife of the late Captain Mark Duffy who died in the crash, said in her statement, the four victims "left wives, children, parents and extended families bereft."

Capt. Mark Duffy who had a relaxing week before the tragedy.
Capt. Mark Duffy who had a relaxing week before the tragedy.

She asked anyone speaking about the accident in the days and weeks ahead to remember the honour and distinction with which the four crew members served the Irish Coast Guard.

"Mark was an excellent helicopter pilot and Daddy. He shared with his crewmates a deep commitment to his SAR [Search and Rescue] role and always took great pride and satisfaction in that role."

This dedication is reflected in the small snippets of the AAIU’s report. The report - which did not attach blame to the actions of any crew member - detailed the day of each individual.

Captain Duffy had had a relaxing week beforehand and on the day before he started work, he checked work emails, had coffee with a friend, and did some household chores. He went to start his shift at 2.30pm and embarked on the mission later that evening.

Winch operator Paul Ormsby had left base for home at 9pm. It seemed he had gone to bed and was reading when he got the call over the radio about the tasking of Rescue 116.

Winchman Ciarán Smith had been in good spirits before the weekend. He was relaxing at home on the Monday evening when he heard the call over the radio and departed for base.

Ciaran Smith, winchman with Rescue R116, had been in good spirits before the weekend.
Ciaran Smith, winchman with Rescue R116, had been in good spirits before the weekend.

In a statement, the family of Dara Fitzpatrick said that crew members had been “badly let down” by the operator of the search and rescue helicopter services.

They said they hope the necessary changes recommended in the report are implemented fully so that “such an accident will never happen again”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday paid tribute to the four crew personnel of Rescue 116 who lost their lives in the disaster. He said the Government will act on the recommendations contained in the report.

“First of all, again, my sincerest sympathies and my thoughts are with the families of those who were bereaved, they went on a mission to help and to protect life and lost our lives in the course of duty,” he said.

The family of Dara Fitzpatrick said that crew members had been “badly let down” by the operator of the search and rescue helicopter services. Photo: Patrick Browne
The family of Dara Fitzpatrick said that crew members had been “badly let down” by the operator of the search and rescue helicopter services. Photo: Patrick Browne

“We have to take on board those recommendations, I think we have to study this report. It's my understanding it is the most comprehensive air accident report we've ever seen from the authority,” he added.

“I think we have to act on the recommendations. We have to learn lessons from this tragic loss of life. And anything we can do, we must do as a government and as a country, to make sure that the recommendations to improve and to ensure safety into the future are put in place. I will be talking to Minister Eamon Ryan and other members of government to make sure that we move on those recommendations,” the Taoiseach said.

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