Rescue 116 earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Megan Cox.
This St Patrick’s Day in Ireland is tinged with sadness, disbelief and grief for many.
Surrounded by often fierce seas, the water, fishing, weather and salty breeze are part of being Irish. So too the Irish Coast Guard is a part of daily life, particularly Rescue 116, a Sikorsky S92 helicopter based in Dublin.
It was a regular, familiar and reassuring sound and sight, as Rescue 116 embarked on another mission, perhaps to save a fisherman washed overboard or to retrieve a sick sailor.
Dara Fitzpatrick was a well know Coast Guard pilot and role model for many women and girls in Ireland. Respected and professional, Dara was winched from the water by Rescue 115, but sadly did not survive. Rescue 116 had crashed into the sea. Tragically, the three other crew members remain missing. Our thoughts are with all families, colleagues and those impacted.
Like many Search and Rescue (SAR) crews, the Irish Coast Guard crew were employees of a company contracted to provide the skills, expertise and professional to execute highly complex, and dangerous, SAR activities for the Coast Guard.
The company, CHC Helicopter, traces its history back to 1947 when the Royal Canadian Airforce formed a service to transport people to off-shore oil rigs. That naturally evolved into medical evacuations from the same oil rigs and eventually a range of services including SAR and Air Ambulance services around the world.
Today CHC issued a press release with information about the men and women who crewed Rescue 116:
CHC Statement Thursday, March 16, 2017 “Honoring Our Rescue 116 Crew”
On Tuesday, March 14, there was an accident involving one of our S92 search and rescue aircraft off the west coast of Ireland. At approximately 0100 local time, contact with the aircraft was lost and a major search and rescue operation commenced off the County Mayo coast, approximately six miles west of Blacksod.
The search for three of our crew and the aircraft continues.
We are devastated by the loss of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick who was rescued from the waters off Blacksod on Tuesday but subsequently passed away. We have shared our deepest condolences with her family.
We stand with the families of our remaining three crew members awaiting news of their loved ones.
On behalf of everyone at CHC, we would like to extend our gratitude to all of the emergency services and organisations involved in the search, rescue and recovery mission underway, including the CHC team in Ireland as they participate in the search for their colleagues.
The families of our missing crew, as well as Dara Fitzpatrick’s family, have agreed to let us share with you a little about each of them.
Thank you to the families for letting us highlight their outstanding contributions to their communities and our company.
The four crew who were on board Rescue 116 are all long-term CHC people with a combined service of over 70 years. All highly experienced and highly valued members of our team.
We would like to begin with our three missing crew.
Winch Operator Paul Ormsby – 53 years old
Paul joined us in 1998 and has nearly two decades of experience as a winch operator with CHC. A consummate professional, he approaches the role without fear or favour for who he is rescuing.
Paul received commendations for a rescue in 2000 of 17 Spanish and Portuguese sailors who got into difficulty off the coast of Clare in 2000. His rescue team winched 13 of the sailors from their stricken vessel before depositing them safely in the nearby Shannon base.
Captain Mark Duffy – 51 years old
Mark is highly skilled and professional rescue pilot with more than 15 years of service. He joined CHC in 2001 after working with the Californian Coast Guard for seven years. An experienced SAR pilot, he started flying rescue mission with the Dublin-based crew in 2002. He lives in Blackrock co. Louth, with his wife Hermione and two children and is well known for his commitment to his community work, including regular visits to schools.
Winch Operator Ciaran Smith – 38 years old
Ciaran joined CHC in 2004. He is an experienced winch operator and former member of the Irish Air Corps. In 2003, during his time with the Air Corps, Ciaran received a Marine Bronze Medal for Meritorious Service for the role he played in a rescue of a man off the coast of Antrim.
Ciaran lives in Oldtown, County Dublin, with his wife Martina and their three children. A keen cyclist, he is also known in his community for raising funds for charities close to his heart through participation in charity rides.
And finally, to Captain Dara Fitzpatick, who passed away on Tuesday. We are devastated by her passing and our thoughts are with her family.
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick – 45 years old
Dara joined CHC in 1993. Dara was a senior pilot with more than 25 years of experience in SAR flying. She was a passionate and public advocate for the service.She was one of the first women to pilot an aircraft for the Irish Marine Emergency Services, precursor to the Coast Guard. She was initially stationed at Shannon, then went onto the Waterford base before moving to the Dublin-based team.
She played a key role in several high-profile rescue missions over the last two decades, and received an award for rescuing a pilot whose plane crashed into the Irish Sea in 2010.
Dara was a member of the Coast Guard’s first all-female pilot crew in 2013 which transferred a critically ill child from Cork University Hospital to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.She has a young son.
An email address, Rescue116@chcheli.com, has been created for people to send messages of support, condolences and photographs. We will share these messages with the crew’s families.
(Crew images provided by CHC )
CHC Statement on Tuesday 14 March 2017: S92 Search & Rescue (SAR) Accident in Ireland
Earlier today, there was an accident involving one of our S92 search and rescue aircraft off the west coast of Ireland.
At approximately 0100 local time, contact with the aircraft was lost and a major search and rescue operation commenced off the County Mayo coast, approximately six miles west of Blacksod. That search continues.Today is a very sad day for all of the CHC family, but particularly for our team in Ireland.
We are devastated by this morning’s tragic accident and our hearts are with the crew and the families of the crews involved.On behalf of everyone at CHC, we would like to extend our gratitude to all of the emergency services and organisations involved in the search, rescue and recovery mission underway, including the CHC team in Ireland as they participate in the search for their colleagues.